Woman, 66, found alive inside zipped-up body bag at funeral home

A woman was found alive inside a body bag that had been sent to a funeral home.

Staff at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Centre in Urbandale, Iowa, had declared the 66-year-old resident dead on January 3 after a nurse was unable to find a pulse. 

Her family was given the sad news of her passing and a nearby funeral parlour was contacted. 

A second nurse and the funeral director similarly failed to detect any sign of life.

The woman’s eyes and mouth were open but they appeared not to move. There were no sounds of breathing, nor was any heartbeat detected with a stethoscope, they later said.

She was placed in a zipped-up body bag almost two hours after the first nurse had found her unresponsive and transported to the funeral home. 

But by the time she arrived around 45 minutes later and the bag was opened horrified staff found her gasping for air.

Emergency responders were contacted and found the woman breathing but unresponsive. 

She was transferred to a medical facility and later returned to the hospice, where she died two days later, on January 5.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals issued a citation for Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center on Thursday over the incident. 

The department’s report found that the hospice ‘failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate care and services were provided.’ 

It also noted staff, who had worked 12-hour shifts prior to the incident, had ‘failed to ensure residents received dignified treatment and care at end of life’.

The facility will have to pay a $10,000 (£8,295) fine for the mishap. 

It is understood local police have declined to pursue criminal charges. 

The patient’s name has not been released. 

The citation states she was suffering from early onset dementia, anxiety and depression, and was admitted to the facility in late December. 

Lisa Eastman, executive director at Glen Oaks, said in a statement quoted by The Telegraph that ‘the centre cares deeply about its residents and remains committed to supporting end-of-life care.’

She reportedly said: ‘All of our employees are given regular training in how best to support end-of-life care and the death transition for our residents.’

Local media previously reported that Glen Oaks was fined in February 2022 for failure to perform background checks on employees.

It was at the same time found not to have training required for employment at such a facility to at least five of its workers. 

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