This is the worst nursing home mistake that I have come across as a paramedic. I appreciate that nursing homes are generally understaffed and primarily employ patient carers or care assistants and not enrolled nurses or registered nurses. That said and done, this is the worst nursing home mistake that I have witnessed.
I was called to a 104 year old with chest pain. En route I had discussed with my probationary paramedic the realities of attending a 104 year old with chest pain who ends up having a cardiac arrest. We had discussed that it would be unlikely that we would be doing anyone a favour by commencing resuscitation efforts.
When we arrived, as per usual, it took about 5 or so minutes to gain access into the nursing home. Its always difficult to get someone’s attention in a nursing home, because the staff are usually used to confused patients banging or tapping on things. Eventually, we get in and a staff member points me in the direction of the 104 year old with chest pain. As per normal, the staff member seems to have disappeared completely.
We walk into the room and find a very old lady who has been clearly dead for many many hours. She is cold to touch and had obviously died many hours earlier. I ask her room mate how long she has been like this and her room mate advises me that “She hasn’t moved since this morning… I tried to tell the nurse that I thought she was dead hours ago…”
After a while, I go looking for a staff member. Eventually, I find one and advise that their patient with chest pain is deceased. The nursing home assistant looks shocked and tells me “Are you sure, I only spoke to her a minute ago…” – I politely advise her that she must not have spoken to the patient a minute ago, because the patient’s room mate advised me that she has appeared dead since this morning!
The nurse decides not to argue with me and we start doing our paper work and organise find the patient’s local medical officer for a death certificate. About 10 minutes later we have contacted the patient’s GP and arranged a death certificate.
We are ready to leave and start making our way out the door when a nurse comes back in and advises us that “its a miracle… she’s alive again” – no, I think… I’m pretty certain she was dead.
It’s at this point that the nurse takes us to the room next to our deceased person and introduces us to our actual patient who is still alive (and now has a death certificate from her local GP!)
The staff had no idea that the lady in the next room had died many hours before hand and one of the carers told me that she “thought it odd that she was so quiet all day…”
So, that’s just about as bad a nursing home mistake as you can get… don’t forget to research a nursing home before you place your loved one in one… better yet, look after them at home (its the circle of life – be kind to your parents).