Mar 4, 2013 8:21 PM by Matt Stafford

Emergency: How would your assisted living facility respond?

The decision to put her parents into assisted living came fast for Joan Saucerman about a year and a half ago.

"Much quicker than we would have anticipated," says Saucerman. When looking, she said care was high on the list of things she was looking for.

"I think that would be the number one thing for us; are they going to be taken care of? says Saucerman.

It scares her, hearing about the situation at Glenwood Gardens; a senior independent living facility in Bakersfield, California. An 87-year-old woman collapsed and needed emergency care.

Here's part of the 911 call:

911: "We've got to get CPR started that's not enough, OK?"
Nurse: "We can't do CPR at this facility."
911: "Okay, well hand the phone to the passerby. If you can't do it, hand it to the passerby. I'll have her do it. Or if you have any citizens there, I'll have them do it."
Nurse: "No... No, it's not."
911: "Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone please."

The two continue to go back and forth.

Nurse: "I understand. I am a nurse. But I cannot have our other senior citizens who do not know CPR..."
911: "I will instruct them. Is there anyone there..."
Nurse: "I cannot do that."
911: "I don't understand why you're not willing to help this patient."

Eventually the 911 operator gets more direct.

911: "We're going to let this lady die?
Nurse: "Well that's why we're calling 911."

The woman eventually died.

Here's the statement from the executive director at Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer:

"In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives. That is the protocol we followed. As with any incident involving a resident, we will conduct a thorough internal review of this matter, but we have no further comments at this time."

News 5 contacted the Colorado Department of Public Health, the division managing assisted living facilities. They sent us a statement:

"Use of CPR on patients is an example of the kind of advance care directives that are not regulated by the state. Individual facilities - perhaps in recognition that many of their patients may have "do not resuscitate orders" - may have their own policies. And, many facilities that do have certain policies make sure that on admission patients and/or their family members know of the policies. There is not state regulation that speaks to use of CPR by employees of nursing homes."

Basically, in Colorado, it's up to each indiviual facility to make their own policy.

There's another piece to this; the Good Samaritan Act, protecting people who render emergency care in good faith. California has one, and it likely would have protected that nurse from a lawsuit, but not from her employer for violating policy. Colorado has a good samaritan law as well.

News 5 made several calls on this story. One was to Tom Kinrade at the Colorado Assisted Living Association. Kinrade also operates 16 assisted living facilities in Colorado. He says those companies can face problems if they give aid to someone who has a "do not resuscitate order". He adds that there has been talk of adding a CPR or first aid requirement in Colorado, but nothing is on the books yet. Kinrade says he's seen some of the larger corporations that run facilities with policies similar to the one at Glenwood Gardens in California; where they call emergency personnel and then wait with the patient, without providing emergency care.

Kinrade has advice for anyone looking to place a loved one in assisted living. He suggests asking any prospective center what their policy is in emergency medical situations.



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