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Last week in Bakersfield, California, an 87 year old resident at Glenwood Gardens assisted living collapsed in the dining room and lay on the floor struggling to breathe. A nurse at the nursing home called 911, and the dispatcher began coaching the nurse on how to proceed until emergency medical personnel arrived. In a transcript of the 911 call that has garnered media attention nationwide, the dispatcher instructs the nurse to help provide CPR until the ambulance arrives. The nurse repeatedly refuses. Dispatcher Tracey Halverston, apparently bewildered by a nurse’s unwillingness to try and save the life of a resident in her nursing home, points out “It’s a human being!”
When the nurse continues to refuse to provide assistance, the dispatcher wonders if any of the other employees or residents can be bothered to perform the life-saving CPR: “Is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”
The nurse considers this question, and replies: “Umm….not at this time.”
When the dispatcher asked the nurse whether she planned to just let the woman die, the nurse told her “that’s why we called 911.” The facility’s executive director has supported the way his staff handled things and insists that they followed the proper protocols. Glenwood Gardens is owned by Brookdale Senior Living, a corporation that operates nursing homes and assisted living facilities in 36 states. We are not sure how many nursing homes or ALFs around the country have policies against providing CPR to their residents in an emergency, but this certainly reinforces the idea that you should carefully read and understand a facility’s policies before allowing a loved one to move in. It is difficult to imagine that there are people in the nursing and caregiving profession who would refuse to help a person in need of emergency aid. The USA Today quotes the reaction of Robyn Grant, public relations director of Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, and Ms. Grant’s thoughts are exactly in line with our own: “I hate to judge anyone who might be worried about losing a job in this economy, but you’d really hope human decency would stand above policy.” Why a company in the nursing profession would have policies in place that discourage or prohibit human decency is a question for another day.