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The facility laundry

March 1, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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When I came here to live, an aide offered to do my laundry at home because the facility did not use fabric softener. When she could no longer do my laundry, I sent my better clothes to an outside service so they were at least washed with softener. I did not have my clothes pressed, but they were returned in a plastic bag wrinkle-free.

I never asked how the laundry was done here. Over time, I discovered that the washing was done whichever way the staff member doing it wanted to.

As time went by and my funds went down, the facility did all of my laundry. I was surprised that many times my clothing was askew on the hanger. Sometimes the sleeves were not pulled all the way out. Also, my clothes frequently were not dry. When a partially damp piece of clothing was hung in my very small closet, it came out severely wrinkled. So I had the clothes hung on a shower curtain rod in my bathroom. Hanging them there allowed them to dry completely and avoided some of the wrinkles.

Some clothes from home I never wore again. They just demanded too much maintenance and would have been ruined if they were put into a hot dryer. I decided on a winter wardrobe of sweatshirts and corduroy or fleece pants and, in the summer, cotton-blend slacks and tops. I send my underwear to the laundry. But some of it I have the aides wash by hand.

I would prefer personal laundry not be washed with facility linens. Clothing sorted by color and whites washed separately would definitely look better. Clothing and linens could also be sorted by weight and washed and dried separately. Either the aides or the laundry staff could remove items from pockets and turn them inside out. Too many times candy, gum, and lip gloss end up staining our clothing.

Spots on personal items should be treated. Some of the whites could be soaked to bring them back to their whitest color. One thing that surprised me is that clothing is not mended here. Nothing is ever ironed even when there is a special occasion. I think the facility should have some type of steamer that could be used when a resident wants to go out and look particularly special.

Some area facilities do mend laundry and they do not allow stained linens or clothing to be sent back to the floor.

For two years the facility had a smaller home-sized washer. That made it possible for the laundry staff to wash smaller loads and also to wash items in cold water. With the smaller washer's delicate cycle, it was easier to get a special piece of clothing washed and hung to dry.

The most difficult thing is hand washing sweaters. There is no place to dry them flat unless you makeshift something in your room. Otherwise, knits just go through the regular washer and dryer cycles.

Clothes do occasionally get ruined or lost. I think I average about one pair of lost or ruined slacks and a shirt per season. It is very frustrating particularly if it is one of my favorite things to wear. I usually report these incidents so that the facility will be aware of what is happening with resident clothing.

If zoning would allow it, I think some personal clothing and other linens could be hung outside to dry. It would save energy and garments would have fewer wrinkles.

I would like to see our clothing rotated within the closet. Usually, clean laundry is returned to the same spot. Clothing could be taken out on one side and returned on the other. I would also prefer if pants were hung separately from shirts.

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Southeastern Ohio for the past 14 years.

To send your comments to the editor, e-mail mhrehocik@vendomegrp.com.

Long-Term Living 2010 March;59(3):64

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