Dementia patient 'choked to death on ginger cake after getting into unlocked storeroom at care home'
A DEMENTIA patient choked to death on a ginger cake after being found in an out-of-bounds cellar at a care home, an inquest was told.
Virginia Briscoe, aged 66, died at the Abafields Residential Home in Bromwich Street, Bolton, in the early hours of February 5, 2013.
The door to the cellar — secured by an electronic keypad — had a fault and did not swing shut on its own.
Staff from the care home told yesterday’s (MON) inquest that Mrs Briscoe must have entered the cellar — contrary to the home’s rules — at some point between 4.15am and just after 5am, when her body was discovered.
She was found on her back, with her feet propped up against the door, in a store room containing food and toxic cleaning fluids, which kitchen staff had left unlocked in error.
Mrs Briscoe appears to have taken the ginger cake from the fridge in this room, before eating it in the cellar.
Clothes from a dryer were strewn around the laundry room, and Mrs Briscoe was found wearing multiple layers of clothing.
Bolton Coroners Court heard how Mrs Briscoe, who was prone to wandering at night and eating very quickly.
Mrs Briscoe’s daughter, Donna Marone, told the hearing that her mother had been allowed into the cellar’s laundry room to help out, as she was restless.
The home’s manager, Belinda Byron, insisted no resident was ever allowed into the cellar and none knew the code to open to door.
She also said engineers subsequently discovered a spring had fallen of the door’s closing mechanism, meaning it would not shut, and that the door had shut before February 4.
But staff confirmed a note had been written by Mrs Byron on the door to remind carers to shut it behind them — and had been there for some time.
Karen Lawson, who had been working in the cellar during the night, said: “I was in the habit of pulling the door behind me.”
When pressed as to why, she said, that it was because the door did not shut in the frame of its own accord.
She insisted she had shut the door securely when she left the cellar at 4.10am, and neither Lisa Fowler and Shabnam Agarbattiwaza, who checked on Mrs Briscoe in her bedroom at 3am, said they went down to the cellar between then and Mrs Briscoe’s body being found at 5am.
Mrs Byron could not explain why she left a note on the door, saying only that it was for safety reasons.
According to her daughter and the home’s staff, Mrs Briscoe ate her food very quickly and would not normally be fed without a carer being nearby.
She also claims to have raised the issue of her mother requiring one-on-one care with Mrs Byron a few months before, but nothing had been done.
“I would agree that Mrs Briscoe needed levels of care we were not able to provide,” said Mrs Byron.
Mrs Briscoe moved to Abafields five years before her death, after she was diagnosed with dementia.
Det Cons John Marsh told the court there was no signs that the death was anything other than an accident.
Dr Salmo, from Royal Bolton Hospital, carried out Mrs Briscoe’s post-mortem examination and confirmed she died after choking.
The hearing continues.