General Interest / Senior Living

A Nurse, CPR, and a Call to 911

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MainBuilding220x200This was a week to remember. On the upside, the stock market has risen to new heights and the unemployment numbers are the best we’ve seen in two years. But the down side of the week is pretty, well, down. A young woman volunteer was mauled to death by her charge (a lion). A middle-aged man went to bed in Florida, never to wake up again because a sink-hole opened up underneath him, devouring his bedroom and everything in it. And Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela died from cancer this week. His successor is pinning the blame for his death right on the US. But probably the most egregious insult to human kind came this week in the form of a call to 911 in Bakersfield, CA.

Sometimes it’s tough to put thoughts together when emotions run deep. So let’s start with the story – and the facts. This is the story. Lorraine Bayless, 87, was a resident of Bakersfield’s Glenwood Gardens, an independent living facility owned by Brookdale Senior Living. She went to dinner this week and collapsed in the facility’s dining room. A nurse from the facility then called 911 for assistance. The 911 dispatcher told the nurse on the other end of the line to start CPR, but the nurse refused. According to a transcript of the call, the nurse can be heard saying, “Yeah, we can’t do CPR at this facility.”

By this time, most of us have heard the recording of this 911 call. We hear the dispatcher pleading with the nurse to find someone to do CPR and not just “let this lady die.” (If you haven’t heard the transcript, CBS News presents most of it here.)

Now, here some facts – and some comments.
1) FACT. Independent living facilities are not the same as nursing homes or assisted living facilities. They have no medical component built into their structure. A unit or apartment in an independent living facility is considered a private residence, a private “home” and they offer safety, security, and maintenance-free living. Usually there are meal-plan options.

COMMENT. Okay. You’re having dinner in your own home and some guests are present. You collapse, barely breathing. None of your guests are medical professionals or medically trained. One guest calls 911. The dispatcher tells the caller to start CPR. The caller says that he has no training. The dispatcher will most likely say, “That’s okay. I can walk you through it.” The reasonable expectation here is that the caller would proceed with CPR, giving you the assistance you need until the trained EMTs arrive. Isn’t that what you’d expect? Isn’t that a “reasonable” expectation?

POINT. Even though your own home, just like Glenwood Gardens, is not a “medical facility,” don’t you have a reasonable expectation that, if at all humanly possible, assistance will be offered to you if you are in need? The fact that Glenwood Gardens is not a medical facility just doesn’t matter.

2) FACT. Lorraine Bayless did not have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order on file.

COMMENT. Maybe Lorraine Bayless didn’t have a DNR order on file – because she didn’t believe in them. Maybe she didn’t have one on file because she would have wanted to be resuscitated in circumstances exactly like this. The only one who can answer this though, has died. So we’ll never know.

TO DO. Educate yourself about DNRs. Start here.� And then educate the loved ones in your life. Your parents, your spouse, your kids. Educate them about what DNRs do and don’t do – and about what your own wishes are. Then find out what the wishes of your loved ones are. Don’t waste time. Get this done.

3) FACT. Most independent living facilities “do not have licenses for medical care.” In addition, most also do not have “policies to keep staffers from providing care.” (NBCNews.com 3/6/13 7:48:57 PM ET).

COMMENT. Some are saying the nurse would’ve lost her job had she allowed this woman to receive CPR. Yet Brookdale Senior Living, parent company of Glendale Gardens, stated on March 6, 2013, “This incident resulted from a complete misunderstanding of our practice with regards to emergency medical care for our residents…” Sounds like they’re washing their hands of this nurse and her complete “misunderstanding” of basic human principles.

TO DO. If your loved one resides in any sort of senior living facility, find out their policies, now. They just may be one of the few who do have policies to keep staffers from providing care.

4) FACT. The Bakersfield (CA) Police Department concluded its investigation, saying “no criminal statutes were violated in the controversial…911 call.”

COMMENT. The letter of the law was adhered to. Oh my. I had a difficult time believing this – until I explored a bit more about “good samaritans.” Here’s what I found: “A person is not obligated by law to do first aid in most states, not unless it’s part of a job description. However, some states will consider it an act of negligence though, if a person doesn’t at least call for help.” �So, the nurse skates clean because she made the call. Would love to know though, why performing emergency CPR is not part of a nurse’s job description!

TO DO. Check the Good Samaritan laws for your own state. You never know…

The Lorraine Bayless story is a moral travesty.

There are lessons to be learned here. Don’t let this teaching/learning moment slip by.

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