The sun is shining on the six-story Forest Glen Senior Residence in the home page photo at forestglenret.com. Under the building are the words “Comfort living in southern Oregon.”
That may be true in the summer. It wasn’t the case for residents who told The News-Review last week they’d been shivering in their rooms for days as they waited for heating system repairs. Their lamentations reached a crescendo as early December temperatures plummeted to near-record lows.
After a boiler was fixed on Tuesday, some residents said vents were producing more heat than in the past three weeks.
But perhaps the most chilling aspect of the Forest Glen story was the contrast between what residents had to say and responses from Forest Glen Administrator Louise Cousins.
About six residents told reporter Carisa Cegavske that their room temperatures had been around 58 to 60 degrees in the mornings and evenings. Cousins described morning room temperatures as having been in the low 70s.
Ken Trumble, 81, said he and others living at Forest Glen weren’t the only ones sporting heavy sweaters for warmth. Staff people were wearing coats on the job as well, he said. Cousins said staff members were walking around in T-shirts.
Residents said they’d been told two out of three Forest Glen boilers had malfunctioned and they’d been told repeatedly that repairs were imminent. Cousins initially said only one boiler needed repair and there was too much gossip in the building.
It can’t be easy to run an assisted-living center. Problems are constant wherever large groups of people live.
Older people who may feel control slipping from their lives are likely to be more vocal about discontent than when they were younger and making more decisions for themselves.
Yet nobody can deny that silent or clamorous, the elderly are vulnerable. We are more at the mercy of others when we age. Discomforts we once could brush away are more menacing as we become more infirm. And if we perceive that our concerns are unheard, what used to be merely annoying becomes downright frightening.
As it turned out, Forest Glen residents had cause to complain. Department of Human Services investigators found that most of the rooms they tested there Tuesday were colder than 70 degrees, the daytime temperature required by law.
It’s also worth noting that in early April, a department official told the paper that Forest Glen failed to tell her office about a three-day shortage of hot water.
Such situations are a reminder that it’s essential that we check on older relatives and neighbors, regardless of where they live. Even those who are in supervised surroundings may not be getting the assistance or care that’s expected. Conditions can change from week to week, even day to day.
Gestures such as providing a space heater are more than warm-hearted. They can be essential to those dependent on others for help.
If we live long enough, each of us will one day be in that position.