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Refusing to Help? Nebraska Policies at Senior Living Facilities

Refusing to Help? Nebraska Policies at Senior Living Facilities

By Lindsey Theis. CREATED Mar 4, 2013

Omaha, NE - The largest company that houses senior citizens in Nebraska is talking policy after a 9-1-1 call that's making headlines all across the country.

A staff member refused to give CPR to a dying 87-year-old woman at a California independent living home despite desperate pleas from a 911 dispatcher. It has prompted outrage and spawned a criminal investigation.

Lorraine Bayless collapsed in the dining room of the retirement home that offers many levels of care. She lived in the independent living building, which state officials said is like a senior apartment complex and doesn't operate under licensing oversight.

It also raised concerns that policies at senior living facilities could prevent staff from intervening in medical emergencies.

"We will certainly be reviewing our policies just in case," Andrew Fisher, VP of Community Operations for Immanuel Communities said.

Immanuel Communities operates seven communities that offer Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Support, and Affordable Housing for seniors. Fisher says that each occupant of a community completes a file for life.

"It's prominently displayed in their apartments and it lists their wishes," Fisher said.

It's something that Dr. Byron Oberst, a retired pediatrician and resident of Lakeside Village, one of the Immanuel Communities, calls critical.

"They just take this off the refrigerator and they know all about me," Oberst said.

The Nebraska Healthcare Association says each facility can set its own policy on if or how to administer care in emergencies. An assisted living facility, which offers more aid to occupants, is not required by law to have medically licensed professionals on staff. An independent living facility, is essentially an apartment complex for the elderly. It's up to the facility on whether they require staff to offer CPR or be certified. In Nebraska, senior living facilities are required to disclose their policies to prospective occupants.

"If it's not in a transparent manner, that should be a red flag," Fisher said.

The AP contributed to this report.