They say there are few things with absolute certainty except death and taxes. I would like to add one more item to the list: lost clothing in Long-Term Care.
The number of individuals who lose some of their clothing within 48 hours after admission is staggering.
Why the loss?
Generally after the individual arrives at a LTC home, the majority of their personal belongings will be sent to laundry for labelling. The rationale is that there needs to be an organized way to sort through the personal items. Imagine a home with 160 beds: matching the socks alone!
The issue that is not brought to a newly admitted resident's attention is the fact that any clothes currently being worn will more than likely end up in the same "universal hamper." This is a giant abyss where non labeled items become officially a part of the lost and found.
No one considers the clothing worn on the day of admission or the few items kept behind while the bulk of the wardrobe is sent for labelling.
The irony of having “lost and found racks" is that some folks use these as a means for a “personal shopping" expedition. I have encountered families picking through racks like a giant sale at the local department store and have had to gently remind them that these items are actually someone else's lost belongings.
Here are some tips to avoid lost clothing in a Long-Term Care home
- Before admission, call and find out what the labelling policy is, and how clothing should be delivered to laundry.
- If you are instructed to place personal items in a garbage bag with an attached note, please use a clear bag so staff realize these are clothes and not garbage. (Trust me clothes in green garbage bags may very well find their way to the dumpster.)
- Place personal information on a note inside the bag and outside of the bag. Include the resident's name, room number, wing etc. In this way if the external tag is missing, there is still identification inside the bag. If a suitcase is the means of sending clothes to laundry, follow the same procedure: 2 labels for safekeeping.
- Label clothes to be worn on the first day and subsequently outfits for 2 more days thereafter with the resident's name. Be discrete, labels should be secured to existing tags wherever possible. Labels can be rough against delicate skin, so insure that the location does not cause discomfort. Are you planning on sewing the labels or using iron adhered products? Write the name in permanent marker on the label.
- If you are not able to insert labels, at the very least use permanent marker to write the resident's name on an existing tag in the garment.
- If you are planning to take your loved one's laundry home, you would be well advised to create a sign indicating the resident's name and the fact that family will manage the laundry. This should be posted in a conspicuous place such as on a closet door, or in the bathroom. Although homes should have their own signage, the notice may not appear immediately, and hence items may go into the general wash. Bring a hamper that will easily fit into a closet. Managing to take home laundry is not a commitment to be taken lightly. If there are bowel or bladder problems, frequent pick-ups will be necessary to ensure there is no odour.
- Bring items that are easy care and washable. If it is necessary to leave non-washable items such as suit, place it in a zipped garment bag. It may seem unbelievable, but I have seen the remnants of washed wools suits return looking like child's wear. Do not expect that the staff will sort laundry or check the tags, because of the quantity of linen handled. It may seem incredulous that someone would throw a suit into the hamper, but I have come to realize that "common sense is not so common." (Voltaire)
- Bring colourfast clothing, or do a prewash before bringing new clothes to the home. The effect of colour leeching is more wide spread than you can imagine. In most homes, items are not sorted by person, but rather by living area. That hot fuchsia sweater may create havoc with other people's clothing.
- When bringing clothing as a gift, take the items to the laundry for pre labelling before wrapping, or apply the labels at home. If neither action is desirable, after the gift is opened be sure to hand deliver the items with appropriate identification to the laundry.
A wise individual investigates the laundry protocols prior to admission to a Long-Term Care home. Although in the big scheme of things this may seem minor, losing part of your wardrobe can be a frustrating and unnecessary expense. It is stressful enough to move, and situations like this pose more than an inconvenience.
...And by the way, leave the designer duds, cashmere sweater or pure wool dress at home. There is a high possibility it will slip into the wash and subsequently the only one who will be able to enjoy it is Barbie!
(picture courtesy of thelostsock.ca)