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READERS' VIEWS: Frey Village's unfair ban

Posted 3/11/14



Frey Village Retirement Center in Middletown has had a wonderful reputation for many years in our community, but in the last several years things have been in an uproar. I don’t want you to think that I am a disgruntled …

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READERS' VIEWS: Frey Village's unfair ban


I loved my job and I loved the residents, but due to some personal reasons I needed to resign my position at the end of July.

I had been very busy from the time I resigned in July until October, so I did not have a chance to drop by and visit the residents, my friends, until one Saturday morning in October. I had an open invitation from the residents that if I was available to stop in to play Scrabble, that I was welcome, so I did.

The following week I was told via phone that former employees are not allowed to visit the residents any more.

Nothing had ever been given to me in writing regarding this new “policy,” and when I resigned I was never told that I could not come back and visit my resident friends again.
I have sent letters to Diakon’s corporate CEO but heard via the grapevine that the matter was referred back to the leadership at Frey. I finally received a letter from Mark Pile, CEO of Diakon, written on Jan. 22, stating:

“The interaction of someone who is a former employee with residents, whether as a volunteer or as a visitor, is one that requires attention that is different than with a person who has not been an employee for a number of reasons.

“Residents may not be aware that a person is no longer an employee and have expectations of that person that do not apply. Residents would not know if an employee had been discharged for improper conduct, and we would not disclose that fact to residents, but we cannot expose the residents to an individual who has been terminated for reasons that may pose a threat to the residents.

“Employees are expected to be focused in doing their jobs to serve the residents, and the presence of a former employee can take their time and attention away from their responsibilities to residents and to one another.”

In the last paragraph, he stated that “for these reasons, we have determined that when an employee leaves employment, it is best for the residents and for their former co-workers to exclude former employees from visiting and volunteering. We need to be fair and consistent in our application of this rule so that we can ensure the safety of our residents and continue our excellent service to them. I hope that you understand why we have made this decision.”

In my reply in a letter dated Feb. 1, I asked for clarification of his statements. I wrote:

“If an employee was discharged for improper conduct and might be a threat to the residents I would think you would have a restraining order against that individual if you want to protect the residents. However, we are not talking about that situation. Employees who have left on good terms after years of faithful service and bonding friendships should not be punished in the same manner.

“If your real concern is for the welfare of the residents you would encourage visitation from friends, not restrict or try to break those relationships. Residents in the Tower (Independent Living) have purchased those apartments and are ‘independent’ in their comings, goings and with whom they have as visitors.”

I did not mention this in my letter, but it seems to me that an employee who has been faithful for 5, 10, 20, or 30 years has already been screened and deemed safe and worthy of a position whether caring for the residents or visiting.

I added that “Your last paragraph mentions the exclusion of former employees from visiting and volunteering…I was told I could volunteer after I had been out of the building for a year and your reply sounds like there will be NO VISITING AND NO VOLUNTEERING EVER!...and joining the Frey Auxiliary (of which I have been a contributing member for years) is not an option any more since you say former employees are not allowed in the building.”

So I felt that Pile needed to clarify his statements further especially on who is classified as a former employee. Is it any one who ever worked at Frey or just since the new executive director, Brenda Blough, arrived?

Pile’s e-mail reply on Feb. 18 stated, “I received your e-mail and believe that I was clear in my letter of Jan. 22, 2014.” That was it.

The Independent Living residents purchase their apartments, and the administration will not allow them to invite a former employee to visit them. There was an incident recently when a resident invited a former employee (not me) to visit and when the person arrived she was escorted from the building by the director. This has been very difficult for the residents to deal with but the director seems to have her own agenda.

This has never happened before in the history of Frey Village. Visitors have always been welcome whether former employees or not. Seems to me that this is an infringement of the residents’ rights to have visitors of their choice visit them and discrimination of former employees.

Frey used to be a big, happy family, but there certainly is a lot of controversy now.

I have always told my residents (when I worked there) that Frey was the place I wanted to live when that time came but I have changed my mind about that now.
I did consult an attorney about this but to go the legal route could become very expensive. I certainly had hoped the director/and or CEO would rescind this ban without all this adverse publicity for Frey Village.

I have lived in the Middletown area for 22 years now and Frey was like my second home for 10 years of that time. This has been so upsetting for everyone involved –  and this isn’t just about me or the other former employees. It’s about the residents’ rights, and it seems to me that those rights have been violated.
It seems like the residents are the losers in this instance. What do you think?

Pat Sherick