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Disappearing washcloths

July 7, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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I have lived in two nursing homes and each ran low on washcloths occasionally. At my first facility, I was being pushed to the shower one morning when my aide told me there were no clean washcloths. "What do you mean, there are no washcloths?” I asked. I could not believe that there were none in the linen closet or in the laundry.

I asked the aide to please get two old cleaning washcloths from the housekeeping cart. She was afraid there would be chemicals on them. I told her they were washed in the same washing machines as regular washcloths and should be okay. Besides, we had nothing else to use. She got cleaning washcloths and used them for my shower.

When new washcloths did not come in, a nurse suggested the aides cut up small towels and use them for washcloths. While I was in the shower room, the nurse came in, cut a hand towel in fourths, and said to the aide: "Use these to wash her."

Two of us residents brought the washcloth situation to the maintenance man because he ordered them. Residents also discussed it at Resident Council. We were told washcloths were ordered routinely, but disappeared quickly. We suggested they check all resident rooms because some residents hoarded them. Some washcloths were recovered, but not enough to make a significant difference.

When I went shopping, I bought an 18-pack of white washcloths and gave them to housekeeping. Soon after that, the washcloth order came in. Before long, however, the stock began to dwindle. It was thought that after messy cleanups some aides threw them away, instead of rinsing them out.

I thought a laundry barrel could have been filled with detergent and water for washcloths to soak. Then aides could do a quick rinse and then the washcloths could soak until they were sent to the laundry. I thought that this system would result in fewer washcloths ending up in the trash.

I buy colored washcloths for my use. At this facility, the washcloth supply is low. At times residents have to wait for washcloths to be laundered before they can shower. With fewer washcloths available, aides are probably using towels to wash residents, which is not a timesaver.

The shortage of washcloths is a dilemma. Constant reordering is an extra expense. But residents need washcloths to maintain their hygiene, and they need a supply available.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...