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Housekeeping's role

May 1, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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During the beginning of my stay here, cleaning my room was not a challenge. When I moved to a private room, I brought my computer and added stands, shelves, and a closet. Since I now have so many things in here, I had to hire someone to help me reorganize and discard unwanted items a couple of times each year. Because of last and this year's medical appointments for my cancer treatment, I have not had the time to hire anyone and I depend on housekeeping to do the extra work.

The rooms here are cleaned much like in a hospital. Housekeepers do not spend very much time in any room. But since many residents keep snacks, the housekeepers need to pay particular attention to those spaces or they will become quite untidy.

It used to be that walls in the resident rooms were sprayed with a cleaner and dusted down once a year, typically in the spring. Since that is no longer done, I ask the housekeepers to wipe the walls around light switches, getting rid of finger marks.

For a few years a man has been in charge of environmental services, which includes housekeeping. However, I think that women pay more attention to the facility. It is usually cleaner when the administrator is female.

Housekeeping still uses the same day-to-day cleaning methods as they did when I first arrived. These practices utilize dust mops and string mops. I certainly do not think that is a very efficient way to clean but I am sure that it is probably done that same way at other nursing homes.

I think for our rooms to be cleaned properly, they need to be wiped down from top to bottom once a year. It has been a few years since they have been emptied, stripped, and waxed-which used to be done annually. If a room needed to be painted, housekeeping did the floors at the same time. There are tentative plans to remodel this facility in the future and that might have changed the cleaning schedule. Presently, they intend to strip and wax the floors in the dining rooms and hallways.

I also noticed that corners of rooms are frequently missed. Draperies, privacy curtains, and trash cans need to be washed more often. The shower areas need more thorough cleaning as well and the ceramic tile floors should be scrubbed on a regular schedule.

To clean resident rooms appropriately, the residents must be out of their living spaces for a good part of the day. The residents are rarely pleased when housekeepers tell them they are doing a pullout. Some residents need their special bathroom facilities so they do not have difficulty toileting. Some residents look lost until their rooms are back to normal. Others constantly want to get back in their rooms to lie down. I have suggested that housekeeping should schedule room cleaning when we are gone for medical appointments or family gatherings, allowing staff to work without any pressure from anxious residents.

In the past, when my room needed cleaning, my computer was connected in an empty room. Although I had no Internet access, I could write or play cards to keep busy. The last time they scheduled my room's floors to be stripped and waxed they gave me notice and I went out shopping that day.

The best time to do a thorough cleaning is when the weather is good. Residents can go outside to get over being without TV and other entertainment. Maybe in a few years we will have more to do here and spending time outside of our rooms will not seem like so much of a hardship.

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 May;59(5):64

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