An Iowa woman was declared dead and sent to a funeral home. Then she 'gasped for air,' report says.
DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa care home is being fined $10,000 after declaring one of its residents dead and transferring her to a funeral home – where she was found to still be alive.
A report from the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals says the mistaken death declaration occurred on Jan. 3 after a staff member at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center in Urbandale reported that the woman, 66, had died about 6 a.m. The report said the woman, who had early onset dementia, anxiety and depression, had been in hospice care since Dec. 28.
The staff member reported she could no longer feel the woman's pulse and alerted a nurse practitioner, who made the death declaration, the report said. Iowa law allows nurses and physicians' assistants, in addition to doctors, to declare a patient dead.
The report also said that the woman previously had suffered minor seizures and showed signs of mottled skin, a sign of approaching death.
'Gasped for air'
About 90 minutes after the woman was declared dead, she was taken to the Ankeny Funeral Home & Crematory in a zipped body bag, the report said. When she arrived, funeral home staff unzipped the bag and saw that her chest was moving as she "gasped for air." Staff then called 911.
The Ankeny Fire Department responded to the call, which it said reported a person in apparent cardiac arrest. That proved incorrect, the department said, and the woman was taken to a hospital, where she was found to be breathing, though unresponsive.
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Woman later dies in hospice
The woman was returned to hospice care, where she died Jan. 5, according to the department of inspections and appeals report.
The agency found the Urbandale care center had "failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate cares and services were provided" regarding the declaration of the patient's death.
Lisa Eastman, executive director of the Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center, said the facility has been in close communication with the family of the woman.
"We care deeply about our residents and we remain fully committed to supporting their end-of-life care. All of our employees are given regular training in how best to support end-of-life care and the death transition for our residents," Eastman said.
Sgt. Corey Schneden, a spokesperson for the Ankeny Police Department, said it is not pursuing criminal charges.
A representative of Dignity Memorial, the parent company of The Ankeny Funeral Home & Crematory, declined to comment.
"Out of respect for the privacy and confidentiality of the families we are honored to serve, we are not in a position to comment further on this matter," the spokesperson wrote in an email to the Register.
Follow Francesca Block on Twitter: @francescablock3.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa woman declared dead found alive at funeral home, report says