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Jeff Eyges

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There may be no action about which I feel more strongly. It should be an international capital crime, with trials conducted at the World Court.
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Stop Forced Organ Harvesting From Falun Gong Practitioners
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I’ve once again allowed the blog to lie dormant over the summer as I was in discussions with my attorney, who presented a Demand Letter to both the Director of Center Communities and the CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife. We are requesting their help in relocating me, as well as a monetary settlement for both statutory violations and emotional distress. We also cc:’d the Director of MassHousing, which holds the mortgage on Center Communities and contributes to my rent, and the President of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston’s Jewish Federation), which is closely affiliated with HSL.

I won’t go into all of our grievances outlined in the letter, but I do want to mention one incident, as it was particularly egregious and I feel strongly that it needs to be made public. I recently found fecal matter smeared all over the laundry room on my floor. This is a direct result of two of Center Communities’ policies that I have described here before and about which I have been complaining for years:

     ➣ Leaving seniors here far beyond the point at which they can reasonably be cared for in a facility of this nature;

     ➣ Refusing to require their families to hire professional caretakers, allowing them instead to hire what are essentially babysitters at a fraction of the cost.

Their lawyer subsequently came back with a monetary offer so low that it was insulting. I’ve told my lawyer that if they remain firm, it is time for us to go to court. He also insisted they haven’t the connections to find me alternate housing, which is nonsense, although in his defense, it may very well be what they’re telling him, and he hasn’t been working with them long enough to know that they have an extremely troubled relationship with the truth. 

With the delivery of my letter, there are now three residents of Center Communities who are engaged in litigation against Hebrew SeniorLife. In addition, I have recently spoken to two other residents who are on the verge of retaining legal representation. Obviously, this makes a qualitative statement about the caliber of the facility’s management staff, and of the characters of those who comprise it. 

Center Communities has been extremely poorly managed during the fourteen years it has been owned by Hebrew SeniorLife, and it has a history of being threatened with litigation and capitulating in order to make problems go away. However, as terrible an administrator as the previous Director was, and as toxic and abusive of both residents and staff as the former Property Manager was (a situation that was tolerated for years without intervention by Hebrew SeniorLife), during their decade-long tenure they never managed to elicit three (and potentially five) legal actions simultaneously. The current management staff has created an atmosphere of general unhappiness and fostered a level of ill will that is unprecedented in the 42-year history of this facility.

Furthermore, as I have mentioned before, this attitude extends far beyond the boundaries of these three buildings. There have been units sitting vacant for months because they have been unable to rent them. Increasingly, people don't want to move into this facility and don’t want to place their elderly or disabled relatives here. Moreover, it is rare to find anyone within the Town of Brookline - public employee or private citizen - who isn’t critical of Center Communities. The development of its negative reputation began under the previous Director and has continued into the present.

It is important to note that when these scenarios occur, they are often the result of behavior on the part of Center Communities' staff that I can only describe as "bullying". When forced to deal with a strong-willed person, even if that individual is creating problems for others, they frequently back down. Conversely, when confronting someone who is less likely to stand up to them, they become more aggressive, often inappropriately so. They're also arbitrary in their decisions about whom to go after. Frequently, they will take a disliking to someone, and oppress him or her for that reason alone, even to the point of fabricating "evidence" to be used against that individual. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion and have experienced it firsthand; as I mentioned in a blog post last year, the Director of the facility was engaged for some time in a campaign of harassment of me, which ultimately resulted in my retaining an attorney and proceeding legally against them.

In the meantime, the quality of care here continues to deteriorate, while both the management of Center Communities and the administration of Hebrew SeniorLife look the other way. There have been threats of suicide on the part of elderly residents, a situation with which the social workers (who do little enough to begin with) are completely unequipped to deal - and the management has no interest in hiring professionals who have experience in dealing with geriatric clinical depression. It is just one more manifestation of Center Communities presenting itself as being something it is not.

As one outside social worker told me (upon being informed that Center Communities staff members have been representing the facility to prospective residents and their families as being equivalent to Assisted Living):
“It isn’t Assisted Living. It isn’t even what they officially represent it as being: Senior Supportive Housing. It’s nothing more than Independent Living, with a few supportive services - and the services they have are ‘meh’.”
She went on to say, “The facility doesn't really fit into any category. It’s just a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” The upshot is that she no longer recommends it to her geriatric clients.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, over the span of the last year and a half since they were made aware of this situation, either the CEO or the VP of Senior Living (who is in charge of the residential facilities) should have called me and said, “Alright, enough. You aren’t happy; we aren’t happy. Let’s sit down and see if we can resolve this amicably, before it escalates further” - but they couldn’t be bothered. Other residents, being unable to resolve issues through the management, have also written to the CEO. Invariably, he bounces the letters back to the management staff who refused to do anything in the first place. Hebrew SeniorLife’s default method of dealing with any situation, from the top down, is to do nothing and hope that it resolves itself. It rarely does. 

A friend said to me the other day, “I don’t understand why they aren’t willing to work with you to help you to find another place to live. They don’t want you there, you don’t want to be there - it would be better for them as well as for you.” Precisely.

I think there are a number of reasons for this: they don’t want to exert themselves, they don’t want to take responsibility for creating this situation, they don’t want to call in any favors for me, and they are trying to minimize the amount of public exposure. I suspect the last one figures into it significantly, which is purely ridiculous. My obscure little blog has already developed something of a following. It’s been a year and a half and a mere twenty posts (including this one), yet it’s had over 6,000 hits - and I’ve done almost nothing to promote it. 

Moreover, I have already involved MassHousing and the Jewish Federation, and have made it clear to them that, in addition to litigation, I intend also to involve HUD (with whom they have a contract) and the Office of Elder Affairs (as I’m sure much of what goes on here qualifies as elder abuse), and to go to their Board of Directors and their large donors, as well as to newspapers and television news outlets. In short, I intend to make this situation even more public than I already have - yet still, their knee-jerk reaction is one of denial. There is no shame or remorse, certainly no acknowledgement of culpability.

Hebrew SeniorLife has been masquerading for years as an altruistic organization. Increasingly, people are coming to realize it is not. The bureaucrats who run it are focused primarily upon its bottom line, and care little, if at all, for the welfare of those in its charge. It is beyond time for the Jewish community to become aware of it.
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I have a mouse trapped in my closet.

Last night, at around 9:00, I saw a mouse scurry across my bedroom floor. It ran into my linen closet, and I trapped it by placing a sheet across the crevice between the door and the floor.

They've had a problem here with residents who hoard, and although it presents a health and safety hazard for the other residents, naturally, as is invariably the case, they've refused to deal with it. One of the hoarders died recently, and as the family has been cleaning out the apartment (where were they when their elderly parent was hoarding?), mice who had taken up residence in the garbage have been scattering throughout the building.

So I called the answering service, and as is par for the course in this facility, they refused to help me. This is something else that goes on here regularly. The answering service is horrendous. Firstly, they habitually avoid answering the phone. (I experienced this myself a couple of months ago, during a weekend in which the temperature reached 15 below at night. I tried repeatedly to reach them, to lodge a noise complaint - but what if there had been an emergency involving an elderly resident? What if the heat had stopped working, or the pipes had burst?) When they do answer, they habitually refuse to take messages. Last night, the woman I spoke to actually agreed to take a message (she must be new), but she refused to page the on-call maintenance person. It's 4:52am; I've been up since 3:00, listening to the mouse trying to escape.

The management has been asked repeatedly to replace the answering service, but they refuse to do so. They rationalize away all complaints about them. I'm not surprised; they have an affinity for them. They all simply refuse to do their jobs.

Update 9:53am: A couple of the maintenance guys came and trapped the mouse for me. Thank God for the maintenance staff. They're the only ones around here who genuinely try to help the residents.
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The Property Manager got back to me yesterday afternoon. I had told her the family of the elderly woman above me was in town, that it was an opportunity for her to speak to them, but that if she didn’t intend to, I was going to try to catch them. She finally emailed me back, to tell me I hadn’t the “right as a tenant to confront any resident or their guest".

I responded by telling her I had no intention of “confronting” the family, but that if I happen to meet someone in the hall and they’re willing to converse with me, I am certainly within my rights to have a conversation with them (which ended up not happening, anyway). This is the arrogance of Hebrew SeniorLife staff; they actually feel they have the right to restrict someone’s freedom of speech. One doesn’t have the right to converse with others, if there is a chance one will say something the staff doesn't want them to hear.

The really infuriating aspect is that when one wants them to do their jobs, one is told this is merely independent housing for seniors, with a few supportive services. Virtually every suggestion or request is met with an answer beginning with, "We can't... ." However, when they feel their positions threatened, all of a sudden this facility is at the level of assisted living, and they have the right to determine whether or not one may approach another resident. The denial, cognitive dissonance and ignorance of the law are breathtaking.

I assume the PM was told by the Director to say this to me. I suspect she may be trying once again, as she did last year, to gather material to use to launch another volley of false accusations at me.

These people are making it easier and easier for me to choose litigation.
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As I said in the previous post, I’ve allowed the blog to lie dormant as I’ve tried to resolve these issues with Hebrew SeniorLife. Unfortunately, there’s been little movement. I continue to have pronounced noise issues in this new apartment, and in addition, there is an elderly couple down the hall in an advanced state of deterioration, being “cared” for by a family of non-professionals who’ve turned them into a sort of family business. The couple is incontinent, the “caretakers” don’t keep them clean and there is an odor of urine pervading the hall.

This is all the result of the fact that - as I mentioned in one of my posts of last year - people are left here for far too long, way past the point at which they should be moved on to facilities in which they would be better served. It has recently been brought to my attention that it isn’t merely a matter of laziness and apathy on the part of the administration (although it is certainly that), but that in addition, the management represents this facility to potential renters as being a sort of low cost alternative to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They’re either told, or allowed to infer, that the social work department (which consists solely of two social workers, one full-time and one part-time, and one or two college interns per semester) monitors the residents far more closely, and interacts with them far more regularly, than it actually does. There have been incidents in which people have moved in, and almost immediately moved out, because their families discovered they had been lied to, and that this facility isn't capable of rendering the kind of care they were led to believe it is. 

Regarding the exchanges between lawyers - my lawyer responded to Rhonda’s lawyer last fall. Her lawyer declined to respond, refused to return my lawyer’s phone calls and emails, and actually ran away from him in court, twice, when he tried to talk to her. I don’t know whether or not this behavior is illegal or in violation of the legal profession’s code of ethics, but I intend to lodge a formal complaint against her with the Boston and Massachusetts Bar Associations.

After weeks of this avoidance, I took all of the correspondence to date and sent it to Louis Woolf, the CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife. Two weeks later, my lawyer received a hastily cobbled together letter from Rhonda’s lawyer, which distilled down to, “We’re absolutely right, he’s absolutely wrong, all of our accusations are true, all of his are false, tell him not to bother Mr. Woolf any more, and we think he’d be happier elsewhere.” The latter statement is especially ludicrous, as I told Lou Woolf in my letter that his employees have destroyed my health, that I want to leave this facility, and that I would like him to use Hebrew SeniorLife’s influence and connections to help me to do so, so that I don’t have to be on waiting lists for years. That, they chose to ignore. My lawyer emailed her lawyer to inquire as to what they intended to do to facilitate my departure. He never heard back from her.

A week later, I received a three or four-line letter from Louis Woolf, saying, “Sorry to hear about your problems. Hope they can be resolved. Best of luck in the coming year.” I’m sure he was told by legal counsel to send it merely so it would look as though he’d responded to me, in case this ended up in court. Instead of coming to me like an adult (which he should have done a year ago, when I began blogging), and saying, “This has gone far enough; let’s you and I meet and see if we can resolve this situation amicably”, he’s chosen to hide behind the lawyer’s skirt - and for this kind of “leadership”, he’s being paid in the neighborhood of half a million dollars per year. It’s absolutely disgraceful, and is yet one more manifestation of a reality I described here last year - that for decades, Hebrew SeniorLife has been pulling a con job on the Jewish community of Boston. It takes millions of dollars per year from that community, and returns very little of it in the form of services. HSL has become a haven for career bureaucrats who view the organization as their own private cash cow.

Currently, the most pressing noise issue involves an 86 year-old woman who lives above me. She’s frail, in failing physical and mental health, and complains to one of her caretakers that she’s bored and lonely, and has nothing to do all day but rearrange her drawers - which she does incessantly, making a great deal of noise, beginning at 5:00 AM and continuing until midnight, when she finally goes to sleep. I’ve informed the management that she is exhibiting compulsive repetitive behavior and that they need to involve her children, to tell them she needs to be examined by a doctor, preferably a geriatric psychiatrist, and to suggest it is time to move her to a facility in which she would be monitored and interacted with on a daily basis. So far, they’ve avoided doing all of the above.

This week, I sent two emails to the Property Manager of Center Communities. The first was sent Monday, describing the situation yet again, and telling her if nothing is done, I will have to proceed to litigation. Today is Thursday, and I’ve had no reply. The woman’s children are in town today for her birthday. I have, this morning, sent her another email, informing her of this and telling her this is her opportunity to speak to them. If she does nothing, I intend to proceed legally against Hebrew SeniorLife. I also intend to bring in inspectors from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to show them that a large percentage, probably the majority, of the residents here belong in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and that it is a matter of elder abuse that they are allowed to remain here for as long as they are, with little if any professional care. I am also seriously considering going to the newspapers, and to the news departments of the local television stations.
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I've allowed the blog to lie fallow for the past few months as I've continued to attempt to negotiate with Hebrew SeniorLife. During that time, Rhonda retained an attorney who sent me a letter in which she made false accusations and threatened me with eviction. I then retained an attorney as well, who responded in writing to Rhonda's attorney. Her attorney has had my attorney's letter in her possession for over a month. To date, we have not received a reply.

I'm posting this entry because today is the eighth anniversary of the day I moved into this miserable excuse for a facility. I am beside myself; I originally thought I'd be here for six to eight months. I never imagined I'd be trapped here for eight years.

Although I now have another apartment, problems persist. In fact, the number of problems experienced by residents in general has been increasing, as have resident complaints, and as a response, the management of Center Communities is doing what it has always done - ignoring those complaints and hoping the problems will simply resolve themselves. I am told resident morale is at all all-time low. It is certainly at the lowest level at which it has been during my eight years here.

In the six months since I established this blog, it has received over 4400 page views. Hebrew SeniorLife's management is aware of the blog's existence (and of the existence of its associated Facebook page) and my understanding is that they are unhappy about it - but at no point has anyone picked up a phone to call me. At no point has anyone said, "This has gone farther than any of us would have liked. Come in and talk to us; we would like to hear your grievances and come to some sort of resolution."

This is the most laissez-faire operation I have ever encountered. No one, from the top down, does anything s/he is not compelled to do. As I said in an earlier post, it has become a haven for career bureaucrats, and it is amazing to me that it has remained in business for as long as it has, let alone is as profitable as it is.

These people make money in spite of themselves.
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