(Andy Bronson/The Herald)

Grilled cheese under scrutiny in Quebec after seniors’ choking deaths

Coroner has said sandwich appears to pose a particular choking risk to the elderly

Health officials in Quebec confirmed Monday they are revisiting the place of the grilled cheese sandwich on menus in care facilities following the choking deaths of at least two elderly residents in recent years.

A coroner concluded earlier this year that the sandwich appears to pose a particular choking risk to the elderly after two residents of the same St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., care home died in similar circumstances, three years apart.

Coroner Andre-H. Dandavino recommended that both the local health authority and the provincial Health Department review the risks associated with grilled cheese sandwiches following the deaths of Clemence Thibodeau in 2015 and Monique Leboeuf in 2012.

“The grilled cheese sandwich seems to be problematic and risky for the elderly,” he wrote in his report.

Thibodeau, who was 78, died in hospital the day after getting part of a sandwich stuck in her throat at the care home where she lived, the report said.

The woman, who suffered from a long list of health problems including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, as well as heart, kidney and breathing problems, had been previously evaluated and deemed able to swallow textured foods and eat on her own as long as she was supervised and the meal was cut up.

READ MORE: Death at Victoria long-term care home under investigation

Leboeuf, for her part, began coughing and choking after eating a grilled cheese sandwich in Dec. 2012 and later stopped breathing, even though the obstruction was cleared.

Dandavino ruled it was “a violent death by asphyxia from a foreign body.”

Martine Lesage, a spokeswoman for the regional health authority, said it has since removed grilled cheese from the menu for residents who are on a soft food diet, because “it can form a ball in the mouth that can be more difficult to swallow.”

She said the province’s health department is also finalizing a wider action plan to minimize choking risks that includes information about the risks of sandwiches, including grilled cheese, and more staff training on general food and choking safety and best practices.

But she said the residences also take people’s preferences into account, and will work with residents to make it safe for them to eat their favourite foods even if they aren’t on an approved list.

Nalini Sen, the research program director at the Alzheimer Society of Canada, said people experiencing dementia can be especially prone to choking as the brain loses the ability to direct the body to chew and swallow.

She said that certain foods, including grilled or toasted breads, can be harder to swallow, but that simply banning certain foods isn’t the solution to mealtime challenges.

Rather, she advocates a more “person-centred approach” that includes paying attention to the mealtime environment, how food is prepared and presented and the person’s overall oral health.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Ladysmith A&W sends employees on all-inclusive vacations for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all expenses paid vacations

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5 million for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

Victoria police ask victims of human trafficking to come forward in light of recent arrests

Four people from Vancouver Island were arrested in Saskatchewan on Jan. 28

Victims tell of abuse at hands of Victoria substitute teacher

Harry Charles Sadd pleaded guilty to eight charges that took place between 1970 to 1982

EDITORIAL: Safe water should be a basic right

Not all water users are equal under Capital region policy

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Province shows no interest in proposed highway between Alberta and B.C.

Province says it will instead focus on expanding the Kicking Horse Canyon to four lanes

One woman arrested after pair of armed robberies in Campbell River

Police still looking to speak with anyone who was around downtown Chevron Sunday night

First case of COVID-19 in B.C. has fully recovered, health officer says

Three other cases are symptom-free and expected to test negative soon

Island wildlife rescue centre sees 9 poisoned birds since January

MARS trying to fundraise for ‘rigorous and expensive’ lead poisoning treatment

Via Rail lays off 1,000 employees temporarily as anti-pipeline blockades drag on

The Crown corporation has suspended passenger trains on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto

VIDEO: Knife-wielding man arrested after barricading himself in Lower Mainland Walmart

A man had barricaded himself in the freezer section of the fish area at a Walmart in Richmond

Budget 2020: Weaver ‘delighted,’ minority B.C. NDP stable

Project spending soars along with B.C.’s capital debt

Gordon Lightfoot still on the road at 81

Tickets for Island shows in Victoria and Nanaimo, selling well already

Most Read