‘Gasped for air’: Woman declared dead found breathing in body bag at funeral home

A woman who had been declared dead was found alive and breathing in a bodybag at an Iowa funeral home.

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The 66-year-old woman, whose name was not released, was a resident at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale, Iowa, The Associated Press reported.

She had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, anxiety and depression. She had lived at the care center since December 2021 and had been in hospice care since late December 2022 due to “senile degeneration of the brain,” CBS News reported.

The woman was declared dead on Jan. 3 after a staff member said the woman was not breathing and could not find a pulse. The staffer had been working a 12-hour shift at the time and told a nurse practitioner about the woman’s condition. The nurse practitioner said the woman was not breathing and also couldn’t find a pulse. The nurse continued to assess the woman for about five minutes before saying that she had died. From the time of the first worker’s report of the woman’s condition until the patient was declared dead was about 90 minutes.

The woman was then put in a zippered body bag by another nurse practitioner and a funeral home employee about an hour after the woman was declared dead before being taken to Ankeny Funeral Home & Crematory. That’s when a worker found her alive and breathing.

A report from the investigation concerning the woman’s death said funeral home employees “observed (the resident’s) chest moving and she gasped for air,” CBS News reported.

Funeral home employees called 911 and she was taken to an area hospital where she was alive but unresponsive, the AP reported.

Eventually, the woman was taken back to hospice care where she died on Jan. 5 with family by her side.

The care home was investigated and it was found that the facility “failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate cares and services were provided” before declaring the woman dead, the AP reported.

Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center has been fined $10,000 by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, CBS News reported.

No criminal charges are being sought, The Des Moines Register reported.

Executive director of the center, Lisa Eastman, told the AP in a statement that the center cares deeply for its residents and is committed to supporting end-of-life care.