Wiley Creek kicks back after COVID

Benny Westcott

Wiley Creek Senior Living hosted a Community BBQ Bash on Friday, March 25, marking its first big event since 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More than two years later, the mood in the courtyard was festive as residents, friends and family enjoyed hot dogs and hamburgers, planted spring flowers and listened to live music from Next of Kin. 

“The residents are out of their rooms after they had wanted to stay in their rooms because of COVID,” Mosaic Management Inc. Sales and Marketing Support Worker Jackie Ruiz said. “Now we see smiles and people wanting to be here and be involved.” 

“They are loving it and are so excited,” Wiley Creek Program Manager Lisa Child said. “Things have been so great since we’ve had things to do again.” 

When she started her role in January, she said, only two residents were interested in participating in the activities she promoted. Now, “they are all out.” 

Child has been pushing residents to be active, taking them on trips to the Green Thumb Garden Center in Lebanon, weekly shopping excursions and scenic drives. At the facility itself, residents have taken part in cards, karaoke, writers club, birthday parties, “armchair travels” (learning about different cultures and preparing their cuisine), bingo, ice cream socials, a weekly happy hour and arts and crafts. They also enjoy “manicure Mondays” and Bible studies on Wednesdays. Child has a suggestion box for activity ideas. 

Future events include a trip to the Rio Theatre, a community Easter Egg hunt for kids, a dog training show and other animal shows, and a trip to the 2022 Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn. 

“If we keep them busy, they keep smiling,” she said with a laugh. 

Resident ambassador Linda Biatus, who’s lived at Wiley Creek for two years, is enjoying all the activities as COVID restrictions loosen. 

“I love this place,” she said. It’s great when we get new people in and you get to meet them. I’m really happy to be here. I want everybody to come here. After being in a room with a mask on all the time, it feels good to be out without your mask walking in the hallway.” 

Biatus thought the community barbecue was a good idea. 

“It’s wonderful to get residents and the community and families out here, to get people to know what our community is doing,” she said. 

What Wiley Creek members are doing and the way they do them have in fact changed during Biatus’ time – and not just because of the pandemic’s disruptions, but because the Salem-based Mosaic Management Inc., which specializes in senior housing and living, took over Wiley Creek’s operations from Samaritan Health Services last October. 

“The environment is completely different,” Ruiz said. “We have a staff with not a lot of turnover. We have a team now, and we’re strong.” 

“I’m seeing fresh faces and a lot of positivity and open arms. It’s more family-oriented as opposed to a hospital facility feel. It’s more homey,” Child said. 

She’s seen residents foster meaningful connections.

 “It’s great seeing a lot of them open up and making new friends and bonds. Even though many of them have been through big changes and losses in their lives, there’s still relationships and bonds to be made,” she said. 

Maintenance and Housekeeping Manager John Games, who’s worked at Wiley Creek since January 2020, has noticed differences with the shift in ownership. 

“A lot of things have changed for the better,” he said. “With the facility, things have been taken care of that previously were falling through the cracks.” 

He said the organization now has a larger management team, and business office manager and sales manager positions have been added. 

“It’s great having a company that actually runs these types of facilities and knows how to run them,” he said. “Before, there was a lot that I couldn’t handle because I was limited in manpower. Now I have a lot of support from people in the building. This company promotes teamwork in ways that I’ve never seen.” 

He described more engagement between residents and floor staff and management. “It’s a lot more of a caring environment,” he said. 

The pandemic was “terrifying and nerve-wracking,” he added, but no COVID-19 outbreaks were reported, even with the company switch. Now, he said, residents were mixed about returning to normal pre-pandemic activities. 

“We have both sides,” he said. “People are getting excited, but we also have the other side that’s nervous. We want to make them feel as comfortable as we can.” 

More changes are coming, with a remodel plan that will include 24 more assisted living and 42 additional memory-care rooms. 

“The remodel is going to be amazing,” Child said. “It’s everything this town has been needing.” 

As the spring in the air turns to summer and beyond, she hopes Wiley Creek residents will continue to be served in positive ways. 

“We are here with them for the rest of their lives,” she said.