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Monday, August 3, 2020

Residents at Woodway Assisted Living protest ‘hellhole’ living conditions

Philip Emerson, general counsel for Ageia Health Services, said, “Some of those complaints are valid and being addressed.” // Photo courtesy of Lorraine Howard

 

by Oliver Hamlin

From insufficient diets to expired prescriptions, Lorraine Howard and Jacalyn Freid, roommates and current residents of Woodway Assisted Living, have seen it all.

Woodway Assisted Living, an assisted and independent living facility for senior citizens on 1712 E. Maplewood Ave., has housed the two residents since October 2017.

Friends for nearly two years, Howard and Freid were elected secretary and president of the residents’ council after a few months at the facility. It was in these positions where the two roommates began working toward better rights and benefits for their fellow residents.

Despite their work on the residents’ council, Howard and Freid faced backlash from the administration and the two eventually helped organize a protest outside the facility on July 6.

Along with about 10 other residents, Howard and Freid held signs which read, “Tax payers’ money being wasted by uncaring facilities” and “Cold meals, not enough food” while waving to passing cars and pedestrians.

“All they want is to have dignity left,” Freid said.  

The grandmother found herself taking care of residents with Howard when they were hungry without food to eat.  Freid and Howard made trips to the Salvation Army food bank to stock up, she said.

“A lot of residents buy their own food,” Howard said. She recalled residents showing up to their door late at night hoping to find food as they went to bed hungry.

Woodway Assisted Living is owned by Ageia Health Services, a company which runs living facilities from its headquarters in Bend, Oregon. According to the Ageia Health Services website, the company owns six other facilities besides Woodway, some of which include assisted living, retirement, memory and respite care options.

One of the meals served to residents at Woodway Assisted Living. The company says the meals are “chef-prepared” on its website and that “we provide our residents with a fine dining experience at every meal.” // Photo courtesy of Lorraine Howard

Food was a major concern raised by the residents at Woodway.  Howard said residents often noted the small portion sizes, overcooked and sometimes cold food and meals described as, “filler food and mostly starch.”

For residents with special dietary restrictions, finding a diet that meets their needs is challenging.  Howard said she needed a high-protein diet, as recommended by a doctor during a part of her stay at Woodway.  Despite these needs, Howard said many of her dinners consisted of egg whites and hash browns.

Along with food complaints, both residents and a former employee note another key issue at Woodway is understaffing.  Paul Smythe was the maintenance director at Woodway Assisted Living for around 11 months from 201718.

Woodway still has his name improperly spelled and listed on its website as “Steve Smythe.” He said this is just an example of how disorganized it is at Woodway.

When Smythe was first hired, he said the clients were happy to finally have a person to come into their rooms and assist them with maintenance.

“Think about it,” Smythe said.  “Fifty-plus rooms, 70-plus people and I was there by myself doing all of the repairs. I can’t imagine why the state hasn’t nailed them for that.”

Along with understaffing within the facility, some complained about the lack of adequate pay for the employees.

“You can’t pay $11 an hour and expect miracles,” Smythe said.

Howard shared her disappointment as she said the housekeeper hasn’t received a raise in three years.

Smythe found a number of issues at Woodway concerning, including the call system, appliances and management.  Both Smythe and Howard said that out of the two sets of washers and dryers in the facility, both dryers were improperly vented to the attic and one had to be shut off, leaving one working dryer in the facility.

After giving the management a month’s notice before protesting, Howard, Freid and other residents of Woodway stepped out onto the sidewalk outside the facility to the frustration of the administration.  Shortly after the protest, the management at Woodway held a secret vote with the residents where Howard and Freid were taken off their positions in the residents council.

Freid said some of the residents told her they did not know what they were voting for when she and Howard were removed from the council.

Freid and Howard began to feel unwelcome by some employees at Woodway when they began raising their concerns.

One person in the administration told Freid, “If you need help moving, I have a truck.”

While Freid will not be using the employees truck, she does plan on moving out.  Both she and Howard had planned to move out of Woodway before the protests took place. They plan to leave Woodway behind in August in hopes of a better living situation.

“This place is a hellhole, that’s exactly what it is,” Howard said.   

Philip Emerson, general counsel for Ageia Health Services, said, “Some of those complaints are valid and being addressed.

“The vast majority of residents are completely happy at Woodway.”

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