"The consensus is if they are a nurse and if they are at work as a nurse, then they should be offering the appropriate medical care," said Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the California Board of Registered Nursing, the agency that licenses health care providers.
The executive director of Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer, defended the nurse in a written statement, saying she followed the facility's policy.
"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," Toomer said. "That is the protocol we followed."
Toomer offered condolences to the woman's family and said a thorough internal review would be conducted. He told KGET-TV that residents of the facility are informed of the policy and agree to it when they move in. He said the policy does not apply at the adjacent assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.
Multiple calls to the facility and its parent company seeking more information were not returned.
Unlike nursing homes, which provide medical care, independent living facilities generally do not.
"These are like apartments for seniors. You're basically living on your own. They may have some services provided by basic nursing staff, but it's not their responsibility to care for the individual," said Dr. Susan Leonard, a geriatrics expert at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Residents of independent living communities can still take care of themselves, but may need help getting to doctor's appointments. In skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes, many residents require around-the-clock care.
Staff members are "required to perform and provide CPR" unless there's a do-not-resuscitate order, said Greg Crist, a senior vice president at the American Health Care Association.