- Written by Peter Corr
What’s in a name? To many a name is only a form of identification. However, as the population ages, an increasing number of elders are entering nursing homes. This new way of life has its challenges.
Living in new surroundings can be difficult – at best – even for those elders in good health. For those entering nursing homes, the few belongings they bring with them take on a new importance. The belongings that residents enter nursing homes with are a link to their past, their loved ones, and their prized possessions. At this point, there is more to a name than letters.
When a resident first enters a nursing home, typically, every piece of their clothing is identified. This means the first and last name must be marked on each garment. When this is done properly, and the clothing is laundered, it can be safely delivered back to its owner.
Some nursing homes write the first and last name directly on each piece of clothing with a Sharpee marker, or they may elect to hand write the name on a label which is heat sealed on the inside of the garment. This identification method has major drawbacks and many negative ramifications.
Writing directly on the garment destroys garments. That can be a problem, especially if a family member has specially made a sweater, for example, for her grandmother. Handwriting on a label is not much better. Too frequently, the name washes off after a few launderings, or someone in laundry cannot read the handwriting, and essentially the garment is lost. Sticking to this game plan is not likely to produce a winning streak anytime soon.
Fast forward down to the laundry. Here you find housekeeping with garments on a rack bringing them out into the hallway and asking resident if they know who owns the garments. Of course if Mrs. Smith has dementia, she may well claim something as her own, when in fact it belongs to Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones may have several items in her room that do not belong to her. These mishaps can lead to bad feelings and finger pointing between family and staff regarding the procedures at the nursing home and questions regarding who is in control and who is taking care of their loved ones. If staff is asking residents who owns clothing, nobody is at the helm. The ship is guiding itself.
ID labeling systems provide a solution to this dilemma. These systems can be used for printing names on labels with laundry ink which are then heat sealed onto the garments. When properly sealed, the name will not fade and the label will not separate from the garment. It can always be identified and returned to its rightful owner.
Nursing home administrators may recognize the dilemma and the need but when competing for budgetary needs, monetary decisions are never easy. Accounting may need a new computer for a new billing system. Carpeting needs to be purchased to prevent slip and fall accidents. Or, housekeeping may need new washing machines. The list can be long – and the money can go fast.
But most ID labeling systems pay for themselves in a year or two. Additionally, if clothing losses zero out, money to reimburse residents for lost clothing becomes a non-issue.
State law dictates that residents and families must be reimbursed for lost clothing. In some states, if the resident’s clothing is not labeled properly, the nursing home will face a fine. This is just a monetary drawback from incorrect labeling. A resident’s mental health and happiness is also better off when they have the stability of their belongings.
To help you decide on the importance of a professional ID labeling system for your facility I have outlined various aspects that should affect your decision.
Following are benefits in using a professional ID labeling system:
- Reduces resident garment losses.
- Reduces garment reimbursement costs.
- Professionalizes housekeeping staff and reinforces best practices in identifying and managing resident property.
- Reinforces nursing home brand and image by helping elevate trust, professional practices, and competency.
- Labels permanently adhere to garments through unlimited launderings, ensuring that garments can be easily matched to their owners and will not be lost.
- Labels are always legible. Printed labels can always be easily read versus hand-written labels.
- The ink used to print on labels will not fade no-matter how many times a garment is laundered. It remains for the life of the garment.
Each nursing home must make their best decision. But it is not an easy decision to make. However, when taking resident’s mental health and well-being into consideration – the decision becomes clearer.
Peter Corr has been involved for the past three years in educating nursing homes on the benefits of professionally identifying residents’ garments. He believes that it is the little things that make a lasting impression on residents and family when residents are first admitted. Taking new clothing and writing on it with a marker to identify each item is unacceptable. It gives a first poor impression of quality and caring that is carried across to all nursing facility departments and people. He believes first impressions are very difficult to erase. Mr Corr is Director of Sales for Penn Emblem Company, Philadelphia, PA.
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