When Nursing Homes Don’t Nurse, Why Pay to Live There?

Posted on March 4, 2013


A 911 dispatcher pleads, an employee** refuses to perform CPR, and a resident dies (updated)

My Dad’s greatest fear was The Nursing Home.  Thanks to my brother, he was able to stay in his own home until his final brief illness.  But what about those of us who don’t have kids, or whose kids are not in a position to respond to our old-age needs?  Well, some of us will have to consider The Nursing Home.  But be very, very careful in choosing one, and make sure you get full details on exactly what they will provide.  The advertising, you see, can be sketchy.

You would think that a facility that is called a “nursing home” and has nurses on staff would provide basic medical assistance, right?  Wrong.  Check out the news about Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, California.  Lorraine Bayless, 87, was a resident in the independent-living facility when she collapsed in the dining room recently.   Someone called 911; eventually an employee… who identified herself as a nurse to the 911 dispatcher…  came from her office to the dining room and got on the line.  And then my mind gets completely blown, because the nurse refused to perform CPR on Ms. Bayless, and she died.

The 911 dispatcher pleaded with her to hand the phone to someone else, anyone else, a stranger, a passer-by, one of the other residents… but to no avail.  As ABC News reports:

“Is there anybody there that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?” the dispatcher asked in a recording of the 911 call released by the Bakersfield Fire Department.  “Not at this time,” the nurse said.

Wow, harsh.  And here we were worried about so-called “death panels” with Obamacare?  Glenwood Gardens is one up on that.  After precious minutes slipped by with Ms. Bayless lying on the floor with no assistance at all, an ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

ABC News reports that the facility confirmed that it acted according to procedure:

“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,” the statement said.

Really?  Then why hire nurses at all?  What exactly are they there for?  What good is medical training that you are not allowed to use? Why does the facility present itself to the public as having “aid and assistance” available?

Right on Glenwood Gardens’ own web page, there is this:

“Emergency call systems are installed in all units to provide access to assistance twenty-four hours a day. Our caring staff are trained and equipped to give aid or assistance whenever needed or requested.”


A screen grab of Glenwood Gardens’ web page. One might draw the conclusion that medical help would be available on-site from the “caring staff.”

Huh.  Does that sound like what happened in Ms. Bayless’ case?  Are we to believe that giving “aid and assistance” just means calling 911?  Are we to believe that “equipped” means that they have a phone?  And what is this “training” they speak of?  Training in dialing 9-1-1, or training in telling the dispatcher, “no, we just don’t do that here”?

This is just one more example of why I intend to never darken the doors of a nursing home/assisted-living/senior facility.  It has occurred to me that I can die on my own dining room floor much more cheaply and comfortably than on some Godforsaken facility’s dining room floor.  I have already instructed my husband that if he comes home and finds me splayed out on the kitchen floor one day, wait until rigor mortis sets in just to be good and sure Before calling anyone.  No “nursing” homes for me, thank you.  Doesn’t seem like there’s much nursing to be had there when you need it, anyway.

** UPDATE, ABC News is now reporting that Bayless’ death is under police investigation and that the employee was not a nurse as previously reported, but a “resident services director.”  HOWEVER, in a transcript of the 911 call, the woman does identify herself as a nurse.