SACRAMENTO (AP) — The company whose employee refused to administer CPR to a dying woman at a Bakersfield independent living home said Tuesday that the employee wrongly interpreted its policy.
Lorraine Bayless’ family, however, said she would not have wanted life-prolonging aid.
The family’s statement to the Associated Press absolving Glenwood Gardens of blame came less than 1 ½ hours before the home’s parent company, Brookdale Senior Living, issued a statement saying the employee’s failure to heed to a 911 dispatcher’s directions was the result of a misunderstanding of the company’s practices.
The developments were the latest twist in a controversy following the release of a 911 tape that recounts a dramatic 7-minute conversation on Feb. 26 between a dispatcher and a nurse after Bayless collapsed in a dining hall at the Northern California senior home.
The dispatcher insisted that the woman, a resident services director, perform CPR on Bayless or find someone willing to do it.
The nurse refused to cooperate because it was supposedly against the facility’s policy to provide CPR.
The 87-year-old later died.
Bayless’ family said she was aware that Glenwood Gardens did not offer trained medical staff, yet opted to live there anyway.
“It was our beloved mother and grandmother’s wish to die naturally and without any kind of life-prolonging intervention,” the family said in a statement. “We understand that the 911 tape of this event has caused concern, but our family knows that mom had full knowledge of the limitations of Glenwood Gardens and is at peace.”
Bayless’ family said it would not sue or try to profit from the death and called it “a lesson we can all learn from.”
“We regret that this private and most personal time has been escalated by the media,” the family said.
Brookdale Senior Living later said, “This incident resulted from a complete misunderstanding of our practice with regards to emergency medical care for our residents. Glenwood Gardens is conducting a full internal investigation.”
The company said the employee who spoke with the emergency dispatcher was on voluntary leave during the process.
Bayless’ death has prompted multiple state and local investigations.
The California attorney general was “aware” of the incident, said spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill.
Bakersfield police were trying to determine whether a crime was committed when the employee refused to assist the 911 dispatcher.
The death shines a light on the varying medical care that different types of elderly housing provide — differences that consumers may not be aware of, advocates say.
Even if independent living homes lack trained medical staff, some say they should be ready to perform basic services, such as CPR, if needed.
The nation’s largest trade group for senior living facilities has called for its members to review policies that employees might interpret as edicts to not cooperate with emergency responders.
“It was a complete tragedy,” said Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of the Assisted Living Federation of America. “Our members are now looking at their policies to make sure they are clear. Whether they have one to initiate (CPR) or not, they should be responsive to what the 911 person tells them to do.”
The California Board of Registered Nursing is concerned that the woman who spoke to the 911 dispatcher didn’t find someone who may have wanted to help the dying woman.
“If she’s not engaged in the practice of nursing, there’s no obligation (to help),” agency spokesman Russ Heimerich said. “What complicates this further is the idea that she wouldn’t hand the phone over either. So that’s why we want to look into it.”
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