A woman in hospice care was declared dead, a sheriff’s official said. Hours later, something truly astonishing happened | CNN (2024)

A woman in hospice care was declared dead, a sheriff’s official said. Hours later, something truly astonishing happened | CNN (1)

Constance Glantz's body was taken to a funeral home in Lincoln, Nebraska, a sheriff's official said.

CNN

Constance Glantz had been in a nursing home – in hospice care.

Whatever ailment had ushered the 74-year-old toward this inescapable brink, her death – as those whose business it is to care for the recently departed often say – had been expected.

They say in such cases that “a ‘death of a patient is anticipated,’” the sheriff’s chief deputy in Lancaster County, Nebraska, later would explain: “A physician had seen her in the last seven days, and the physician is willing to sign the death certificate,and that there was nothing suspicious at that time of the death – all of those fit.”

An Iowa Alzheimer's care facility is facing a $10,000 fine after pronouncing a woman dead who was later found alive when a funeral director unzipped her body bag, according to documents from Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. The 66-year-old woman, who was not identified, was admitted to the Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center facility in Urbandale, Iowa on Dec. 20, due to "senile degeneration of the brain," according to the documents, and was admitted into hospice on Dec. 28. KCCI/Broadcastify Related article Iowa funeral director finds woman pronounced dead gasping for air in body bag

Under such circ*mstances, a coroner’s investigation would not be required and no law enforcement officer dispatched, Ben Houchin said.

“That’s the reason,” continued Houchin, still working through the astonishing – some might say miraculous – events that had only just unfolded Monday, “why (the sheriff’s office) was not sent initially to the nursing home.”

Indeed, earlier that same day – at 9:44 a.m. – staff at The Mulberry home in Waverly had pronounced Constance dead, the chief deputy said.

Given the outcome had been foreseen, at least two people likely then came to take her body away to be prepared for what would come next, he said – no further confirmation needed.

At the funeral home in Lincoln, more experts in death soon moved to place Constance on a table, Houchin said, “to start their process.”

It was only then that a worker noticed something truly odd.

Nearly two hours since the nursing home staff’s final declaration and after what would be a 25-minute drive to the funeral home, Constance – whose name comes from the Latin, “constant” or “steadfast” – exhibited something truly extraordinary:

She was breathing.

“They instantly called 911,” the veteran lawman said.

A woman in hospice care was declared dead, a sheriff’s official said. Hours later, something truly astonishing happened | CNN (3)

No evidence of criminal intent had been found, Chief Deputy Ben Houchin told reporters.

The call from Butherus, Maser and Love, as CNN affiliate KOLN reported, came in around 11:45 a.m., Houchin said.

Lincoln police, fire and rescue personnel rushed to the funeral home, where they found Constance engaged in that entirely ordinary – and also then somehow impossible act – of breathing.

“She was taken to a local hospital,” Houchin said that afternoon, “and is still alive.”

‘This is a very unusual case’

Constance persevered a few more hours.

Then around 4 p.m., her breathing stopped.

She again was pronounced dead, Houchin said later, adding an autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning.

Constance’s family was told all about what happened, Houchin said, and the sheriff’s office started an investigation, including visiting the nursing home.

Related article Woman presumed dead found alive in coffin at her wake in Ecuador

“At this point, we have not been able to find any criminal intent by the nursing home, but the investigation is ongoing,” Houchin said Monday. “I’m sure the nursing home and everybody else is going to be taking a look into what has happened, and I’m sure they’ll look and see if new protocols need to be made and if they were all followed.”

“The funeral home did absolutely nothing wrong,” Houchin added Tuesday, citing the investigation. “They are the ones who found that she was still alive.”

Butherus, Maser and Love Funeral Home is “proud that our directors and staff handled the recent incident in the news appropriately and with upmost care,” it said in a statement. “Our prayers go out to the family.

“We thank Lincoln Fire & Rescue and the Lincoln Police Department for their quick response,” it added. “Thank you to all who have placed their loved ones in our care. We will continue to serve our community with our core values: faith, trust, and compassion.

The funeral home and the nursing home have been “totally cooperative” with the sheriff’s office investigation, Houchin said. CNN has sought comment from both.

Whether charges are warranted likely won’t be decided until after the final autopsy results are in, up to 12 weeks from now, he said: “That’s going to be the next big step.”

For his part, the chief deputy has “been doing this 31 years, and nothing like this has ever gotten to this point before,” he told reporters.

“This,” he observed, perhaps unnecessarily, “is a very unusual case.”

A woman in hospice care was declared dead, a sheriff’s official said. Hours later, something truly astonishing happened | CNN (2024)

FAQs

A woman in hospice care was declared dead, a sheriff’s official said. Hours later, something truly astonishing happened | CNN? ›

Nearly two hours since the nursing home staff's final declaration and after what would be a 25-minute drive to the funeral home, Constance – whose name comes from the Latin, “constant” or “steadfast” – exhibited something truly extraordinary: She was breathing. “They instantly called 911,” the veteran lawman said.

Who is the one to call the time of death when the hospice patient dies? ›

As soon as possible, the death must be officially pronounced by someone in authority like a doctor in a hospital or nursing facility or a hospice nurse. This person also fills out the forms certifying the cause, time, and place of death.

What happens when hospice patient dies? ›

A nurse will get there fast and will officially pronounce the patient dead and call the time of death. Then the nurse will call the funeral home to arrange for transportation. While the nurse is waiting for the funeral home staff to arrive, they will clean and dress the body for the trip to the funeral home.

What is the first organ to shut down when dying? ›

The brain is the first organ to begin to break down, and other organs follow suit. Living bacteria in the body, particularly in the bowels, play a major role in this decomposition process, or putrefaction.

Does a dying person want to be left alone? ›

“We all want different things in dying as we do in our living,” Caswell says. “Some [who are dying] don't want people fussing over them or want to be alone when they aren't feeling well. Others don't want to distress their family.”

What happens in the last 5 minutes before death? ›

Physical signs of dying

Facial muscles may relax and the jaw can drop. Skin can become very pale. Breathing can alternate between loud rasping breaths and quiet breathing. Towards the end, dying people will often only breathe periodically, with an intake of breath followed by no breath for several seconds.

What does a dying person think about? ›

It is a common symptom of the end-of-life process, and may even provide comfort, reassurance, or a sense of connection to the spiritual realm. The dying may turn their focus to “another world” and talk to people or see things that others do not see. This can be unsettling, and loved ones may not know how to respond.

What happens in the last 48 hours before death? ›

In the hours before death, most people fade as the blood supply to their body declines further. They sleep a lot, their breathing becomes very irregular, and their skin becomes cool to the touch. Those who do not lose consciousness in the days before death usually do so in the hours before they die.

Can hospice nurses call time of death? ›

I am an RN but worked as an OR nurse and nurse anesthetist. I never had to pronounce someone. I work on a palliative/ hospice unit. If the patient is a comfort patient and they are a hospice patient, we can call TOD.

What to do if a hospice patient dies at home? ›

What happens after a hospice patient dies at home?
  1. Your first step will be to call hospice. ...
  2. Death should be officially pronounced as quickly as possible. ...
  3. Locate advanced directives quickly. ...
  4. Coordinate with the funeral home for body transportation. ...
  5. Hospice care providers can help you share the news.
Sep 19, 2023

Who pronounces death in hospice? ›

Background While pronouncing death and completing a death certificate traditionally have been care tasks of the physician, laws in certain states and regions allow other clinicians including hospice nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to do some of these tasks.

Who removes the body when someone dies at home? ›

The police will arrange for the body to be moved by a funeral director acting for the coroner if the death is unexpected. If a doctor has confirmed an expected death you may call a funeral director of your own choice when you are ready to do so.

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