When we think about end of life care, it’s easy to assume that the process is handled with the utmost respect and dignity. Unfortunately, a recent incident at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale, Iowa, serves as a reminder that this isn’t always the case.
In early January, the facility pronounced one of its residents dead, despite the fact that the 66-year-old woman was still alive. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals found that the facility had failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate care and services were provided. As a result, the facility is now facing a $10,000 fine.
The woman had been admitted to the facility in December 2021 with diagnoses including end stage early-onset dementia, anxiety and depression. She was placed in hospice care and was administered lorazepam and morphine for comfort.
At 6 a.m. on Jan. 3, a nurse was unable to find the resident’s pulse and she didn’t appear to be breathing. The nurse notified the family and hospice nurse, who in turn notified the funeral home. Another nurse and the funeral director, who arrived to pick up the patient around 7:38 a.m., also reported no signs of life.
However, about 45 minutes later, funeral home staff unzipped the bag and found the patient’s “chest moving and she gasped for air.” The funeral home then called 911 and hospice. Emergency responders found the woman breathing but unresponsive. The patient was transferred to the emergency room for further evaluation, then returned to Glen Oaks for continued hospice care.
The patient died early in the morning on Jan. 5 “with hospice and her family at her side.”
The incident at Glen Oaks is a stark reminder of the importance of proper end of life care. It’s vital that facilities like Glen Oaks ensure that their residents receive the utmost respect and dignity in their final days.