Do “No CPR” Policies Make Sense?

You may have read about a nurse refusing to administer CPR to Lorraine Bayless, an 87-year-old woman at California independent

You may have read about a nurse refusing to administer CPR to Lorraine Bayless, an 87-year-old woman at California independent living facility, resulting in her death on February 26. The outrage that ignited over the case has raised some important misconceptions about elderly care homes, and how they treat residents in medical emergencies.

The situation: After Bayless collapsed on the floor and 911 was called, an unidentified nurse said that one of the home’s policies prevented her from doing CPR, despite pleading from the 911 dispatcher, according to the Associated Press.

“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,” Jeffrey Toomer, executive director of Glenwood Gardens, the independent living facility, told the AP.

The problem: Literally every second counts with cardiac arrest. Because every minute that passes with no help, a person’s chance of death increases by 10 to 15 percent, Benjamin Abella, MD, clinical director of the Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania, told ABC News.

It turns out, however, that “No CPR” policies are common at certain elderly living communities, and it’s important for residents and their family members to know what they’re signing up for when they move in. Here, a brief primer:

Independent living usually means no medical care. “It’s like renting a senior apartment with meals and social activities included. There is no care provided,” Paul Williams, senior government relations director for the Assisted Living Federation of America, told USA Today.

Assisted living facilities may offer more medical care, but not as much as nursing homes. Nursing homes provide 24-hour nursing care, but assisted living facilities may not have staff present at night or on weekends. There’s also no federal regulation of assisted living facilities like there is with nursing homes. This could mean, for example, that residents can be kicked out at any time, for any reason.

Most nursing homes and assisted living facilities have people who are CPR-trained on staff. According to Williams, all but nine states require assisted living facilities and nursing homes to have at least one employee who is certified in CPR and first aid on duty at all times.

Learn more:

The ABCs of Assisted Living Care

6 Ways Boomers Made Senior Living Better

8 Aging Myths, Debunked

Photo Credit: Sally Llanes/Getty Images

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest