Patient declared dead found in a body bag, gasping for air

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An Alzheimer’s care center in Iowa was fined $10,000 after mistakenly declaring a patient dead, according to a report from the state health department.

The patient, a 66-year-old woman who was not named in the report, was pronounced dead on January 3 by staff members at Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale, Iowa, and taken to a funeral home. to the report.

According to a quote from the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals, when the funeral home staff opened the body bag, she was alive and gasping for air.

The woman was admitted to the specialized care center in December 2021 with early onset dementia, anxiety and depression. According to the report, she entered hospice in late December 2022 with brain degeneration and was treated with the anxiety drug lorazepam and morphine, a pain reliever.

From approximately the last month, his vital signs and reactivity worsened. He refused food and had seizures. The report states that “due to active deterioration” a doctor ordered an increase in morphine and lorazepam.

Early on January 3, at the end of a 12-hour shift, a care center worker found the woman unresponsive and contacted a nurse, who pronounced the woman dead. The nurse informed the woman’s daughter and obtained orders from a doctor to drop her off at a funeral home.

The report said that funeral home staff opened the body bag and saw that the woman’s chest was moving and “she was gasping for air”. They called 911 and Hospice.

An ambulance delivered the woman to an emergency room with a low temperature and shallow breathing. The woman had instructions not to resuscitate, so she was brought back to hospice at an Alzheimer’s care center, where she died two days later.

Iowa’s Department of Health fined the center $10,000 for two violations, which included a rule that says care homes must maintain the dignity of residents. The report did not say what, if any, action was taken regarding the nurse.

On Sunday, an employee at Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center said she was not able to comment. Lisa Eastman, the center’s executive director, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Ms Eastman sent a statement to local television station KCCI, which reported the matter.

“We care deeply for our residents and are fully committed to supporting their care at the end of life,” Ms Eastman said in the statement. “All staff are given regular training so they can best support end-of-life care and death of our residents.”

According to the report, the Center did not dispute the findings of the health department. You have 30 days from February 1, the date of the citation, to request a formal hearing or pay the penalty.

The center is a 66-bed residential facility operated by Dallas-based Frontier Management, one of the largest senior housing managers in the United States.

The center or its administrator has been fined more than a dozen times since opening in 2001, according to Iowa Health Department records, for violations that include a lack of specialized staff training in memory care and a lack of infection control during the pandemic. when patients who tested positive for Covid-19 were housed with other residents.

It is not uncommon for people to be declared dead and found alive hours later.

In 2020, a woman with cerebral palsy in Michigan was pronounced dead by paramedics, but was discovered breathing hours later by a funeral home worker who was preparing to exhume her body.

In 2018, a South African woman was pronounced dead at the site of a car crash but was found alive hours later at a morgue.

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