- The Washington Times - Friday, February 3, 2023

An Iowa residential care facility for Alzheimer’s patients was fined $10,000 by state officials Wednesday after a woman woke up alive in a body bag at a funeral home.

The 66-year-old patient had checked into Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in December 2021 for dementia.

A year later she was forwarded to hospice care due to senile degeneration, according to a citation from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals Health Facilities Division.

On Jan. 2, nurses reported that the patient’s breathing was shallower, with her toes beginning to mottle as her heart stopped pumping blood that far down. She also had seizures, leading to increased administration of morphine and lorazepam.

On the morning of Jan. 3, the patient showed more signs of mottling and had instances of apnea where she stopped breathing. 

At 6 a.m. she was declared dead by a staff member. The staffer told investigators she had not felt a pulse, that the patient was not breathing and that the patient’s eyes were open.

When employees at the Ankeny Funeral Home opened the patient’s body bag at 8:26 a.m. that day, they observed the patient’s chest moving; she was alive. She was then returned to the hospice facility, where she died surrounded by her family on Jan. 5.

The facility “failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate care and services were provided” and  “failed to ensure residents received dignified treatment and care at end of life,” investigators concluded in the citation.

The Glen Oaks facility had been fined $500 for failing to perform background checks on new employees. Personnel files reviewed by authorities also found that five employees had not received proper training to work in a memory-care facility, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

“We have been in close communication with the family of the resident. … All employees undergo regular training so they can best support end-of-life care and the death of our residents,” Lisa Eastman, executive director at Glen Oaks, told KCCI, a Des Moines CBS affiliate.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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