It’s a story that sounds like something out of a horror movie – a 66-year-old woman in hospice care mistakenly pronounced dead and transported in a cloth bag to a funeral home. But this unbelievable tale isn’t fiction – it’s the shocking reality that recently happened at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale, Iowa.

According to a report from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the woman, suffering from dementia, anxiety, and depression, had been moved into hospice care on December 28th, 2022. On January 3rd, after a 12-hour shift, a staff member reported that “she did not feel a pulse, and the resident was not breathing at that time.” A licensed practical nurse assessed the woman’s condition for five minutes, then “felt [the resident] had passed away.”

The funeral home was called and a director arrived at the care center at 7:38 a.m. The woman was placed on a gurney, inside a cloth bag and zipped it shut. But when the bag was unzipped at the funeral home, the woman was seen to have a “chest moving and she gasped for air.” Emergency medical services were called and the woman was returned to the hospice, where she passed away two days later with her family at her side.

As a result of the incident, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals fined the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center $10,000 for violating a resident’s dignity and for failing to “assume the responsibility for the overall operation of the residential care facility.” The center’s executive director, Lisa Eastman, said the center has been in communication with the family of the affected resident and that all employees undergo regular training so they can best support end-of-life care and the death of residents.

It’s a shocking story that serves as a reminder of the importance of proper end-of-life care, and of the need for staff at care centers to be trained and knowledgeable about end-of-life care and the death of residents.