A Patient Declared Dead Is Discovered Gasping For Air In A Body Bag

According to a report from the state’s Health Department, an Alzheimer’s care facility in Iowa was penalised $10,000 for incorrectly pronouncing a patient dead.

The patient, a 66-year-old lady who was not identified in the report, was taken to a funeral home on Jan. 3 after employees at the Urbandale, Iowa-based Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center proclaimed her dead.

She was, however, still breathing and struggling for air when funeral home employees opened the body bag, according to a citation from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Early-onset dementia, anxiety, and depression were present when the woman was admitted to the special care facility in December 2021. According to the report, she underwent hospice care in late December 2022 due to senile brain deterioration and was given the anxiety medication lorazepam as well as the painkiller morphine.

Her responsiveness and vital signs began to deteriorate roughly a month ago. She had seizures and would not eat. According to the complaint, a doctor prescribed more morphine and lorazepam “due to aggressive decline.”

After a 12-hour shift, a care facility worker found the woman unresponsive early on Jan. 3. He then spoke with a nurse, who pronounced the woman dead. The nurse told the woman’s daughter and obtained a doctor’s note authorising her release to a funeral home.

Workers at the funeral home opened the woman’s body bag and saw that her chest was moving as “she gasped for oxygen,” according to the report. Both the hospice and 911 were dialled.

The woman was taken in an ambulance to the emergency room when her breathing was shallow and her temperature was low. The woman was returned to the hospice at the Alzheimer’s care facility since she had a do-not-resuscitate order, and she passed away there two days later.

The facility received a $10,000 fine from Iowa’s Health Department for two infractions, one of which was a requirement that care facilities uphold residents’ dignity. What, if any, steps were made in relation to the nurse were not included in the report.

A Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center employee stated on Sunday that she was unable to comment. Lisa Eastman, the center’s executive director, did not immediately reply to a request for comment through email.

When the incident was covered by the neighbourhood television station KCCI, Ms. Eastman sent a statement to them.

According to Ms. Eastman’s statement, “We deeply care for our residents and remain entirely dedicated to supporting their end-of-life care.” All staff members receive ongoing training to help them facilitate end-of-life care and our residents’ passing.

The report states that the facility did not contest the Health Department’s conclusions. It has 30 days starting on February 1 to ask for a formal hearing or pay the fine.

One of the biggest senior housing operators in the US, Frontier Management, is based in Dallas and operates the centre, a 66-bed residential facility.

According to Iowa Health Department records, the facility or its administrator has received fines more than a dozen times since it opened in 2001 for violations such as a lack of specialised staff training in memory care and a lack of infection control during the pandemic, when patients who tested positive for Covid-19 were housed together.

People who are pronounced dead but afterwards discovered to be alive are not unheard of. An 82-year-old lady who was transferred to a funeral home after being declared dead at a nursing facility in Port Jefferson, New York, on Saturday was discovered to be breathing approximately three hours later, according to the Suffolk County Police Department, which is conducting an investigation. According to the police, the unnamed woman was brought to a hospital.

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