EAST ORANGE, NJ — The Arlington House Senior Apartments, an apartment complex for independent senior citizen private living located at 55-57 S. Munn Ave. in East Orange, has one area resident questioning management’s actions. At the height of the COVID-19, visitors were reportedly kept away from their loved ones who lived there.
East Orange resident Patricia Hill is concerned about the psychological impact this will have on senior residents of the building, because disconnection and social isolation can fuel depression.
Hill told the Record-Transcript that she has been having issues while visiting her 78-year-old brother, who lives at Arlington House. Hill said she also believes building management has been secretive regarding COVID-19 cases.
“They’re not giving information about who passed and they’re not even giving you numbers regarding the infection rate within the building,” Hill said on July 3. “It’s like they’re intentionally keeping everything hush-hush. My brother is getting onset dementia and it’s gotten a little deeper because of COVID-19.”
According to Hill, building rules dictate that visitors cannot go upstairs; they must meet with their loved ones in the lobby. Hill wanted to go to her brother’s apartment to monitor his living space because of his onset dementia but was barred from doing so, she said.
“I shop for his food, so I came to the building to give him his groceries. They told me that I couldn’t go up and give him food,” Hill said. “They told me I had to leave the food there and he’ll come down and get it. He forgot his mask when he came down, so they called out to him and told him to go get a mask. So, he had to go all the way back upstairs to go and get his mask. This building doesn’t have free masks or free gloves for seniors. Someone needs to go there and see what’s wrong.”
Arlington House management said Hill’s accusations are unfounded.
“That is also false,” Arlington House manager Tracey Hopson told the Record-Transcript, denying Hill’s allegations. “We have been supplying residents with masks and gloves during this time. We have signatures and pictures of residents with their mask they received.”
Hill said she has sought outside help in regard to her accusations and is now seeking legal help.
“I’m definitely seeking an attorney,” Hill said. “I fear for those people in that building.
“It’s like I’m going to see my brother in prison,” she continued. “That building needs a better system. My brother needs self-care because he’s a senior, and they won’t let me up there to see him. People need access to their families, even despite COVID. In this building, people need to be aware. I’ve never experienced anything like this with seniors. My brother’s rights have been violated.”
According to Hopson, all of Hill’s accusations are false and inflammatory.
“We have a healthy and good dynamic here at Arlington House. The environment is nontoxic,” Hopson countered. “Ms. Hill rarely comes to the building, and when she has come in the past we have had very pleasant conversation. I’m more than capable to be the manager of Arlington House; I have been in this business for over 10 years. I would never say that I’m unfit to manage this building or any other building. I make sure of the safety and security of the residents, as well as visitors and staff. This is completely false.”
According to Hill, things have only gotten worse since she first spoke to the Record-Transcript five days earlier.
“I went to his apartment building on Monday, July 6,” Hill said on July 8. “When I got there, I called up to my brother at his window. He told me he didn’t want to come down. I then called the ambulance. When they arrived, they went into the building and went up to his apartment. They stayed in there for 15 minutes. When they brought him out of the building, all of his clothes were covered in fecal matter.
“They brought him out. He’s been admitted into East Orange General Hospital. These people told me they were doing wellness checks, but, lo and behold, look what happened,” Hill continued. “The way he looked when they brought him out was terrible to see. He lost weight like never before and the experience was just terrible. I’m so brokenhearted.”
But Hopson also denies these claims.
“There was no incident with Ms. Hill and her brother, Mr. Campbell,” Hopson said. “She came to the building and was informed that the building was still on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and no visitors except for medical personnel or emergency personnel are allowed in the building. Mr. Campbell in fact stated that he would come down when he got ready. Upon the arrival of EMS, Mr. Campbell walked out of the building with EMS. He was not carried out. He walked on his own.”
A statement from the corporate office of Arlington House to the Record-Transcript also affirmed that wellness checks are made when requested.
“In response to your inquiry regarding wellness checks at Arlington House, it is important to note that, upon request by a family member, an accommodation is made by having a site staff member check in on the resident,” the statement read.
But Hill argues that wellness checks could not have been carried out, or someone would have flagged the numerous problems in her brother’s apartment. “The cable was out in the apartment, the phone was out, he was so disconnected from the world,” Hill said.
“Gloria, his neighbor, told me a foul odor was coming from next door. I called her to find out info about my brother. He went to the emergency room at East Orange General Hospital. I’m going to go to the police department to speak to the chief today. My brother was very disoriented at the hospital when he went to the emergency room. I know him to be independent and to see him like this is very heartbreaking. They claim they do wellness checks every single day.”
According to Hopson, tales of a foul odor are simply not true.
“When there is a foul odor, the staff checks to make sure that the resident is OK,” she continued. “We have not had any complaints from the residents about a foul odor. Our superintendent lives on this same floor.”
Hill also claims that she sought assistance from East Orange police.
“Thursday, July 2, I called the police to do a wellness check and they told me everything was OK and they had the dispatcher on the phone,” she said. “How can everything be OK with fecal matter all over his clothes? So, no one smelled the foul odor coming from his apartment? The police couldn’t have gone inside his apartment.
“The way the ambulance driver described the scene when they picked him up, they said he’s been like that for a while,” she continued. “They said other people were complaining about that odor for a while.”
East Orange Police Department has also issued a statement regarding Hill’s claim.
“EOPD conducted a wellness check on June 30 at that residence and the occupant answered the door and informed police that he was fine,” EOPD said on July 10. “On July 6, EMS was called out to that same address but told police they (should) only respond if police were needed. They were not, so in this instance, follow-up should be with EMS.”
Nevertheless, Hill continues to question Arlington House’s actions.
“They don’t have masks and gloves for the seniors at all,” Hill said. “They’ve been in the apartment now because the phone is now on the hook. I wonder if they’re cleaning up in the apartment because they know they’ll get into trouble.”
Hopson quickly dismissed Hill’s accusation of a cover-up.“No one has been in the unit since Mr. Campbell went to the hospital. There is no investigation by authorities. Mr. Campbell lives independently,” Hopson said. “This is completely false.”