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Everything you've ever wanted to know about housekeeping... on a floppy disk.

Still another area in which computerization can pay off

Until recently, Twin Towers a United Methodist-related retirement community in Cincinnati, Ohio had no written housekeeping or laundry procedures. Department heads were buried in a paper jungle of staffing, scheduling, billing, and inventories stuffed into file cabinets bursting at the seams.

But all that changed 3 years ago. Today, thanks to a LAN network computer system with 45 in-house connections, the tracking of 40 rest home, 136 intermediate care, and 312 independent-living residents runs like a well-oiled machine: efficient, organized, cost-effective, and far less stressful.

Three of those PC workstations are designated for the 34-member housekeeping and laundry staffs. Daily written records of services, supplies, and time spent on each task are entered into the computer and passed along to the appropriate departments by the housekeeping secretary. Only two other department members (house-keeping director and assistant director) were required to learn to use the computer. And the six-month training conducted by the systems manager was presented function-by-function, most of which were mastered in days or, in some cases, hours.

Unaware of programs designed specifically for nursing homes, Twin Towers chose a software package (Word Perfect) and created its own files for a comprehensive facility-wide system. This effort was based on the realization that anything that requires organization, communication, or documentation lends itself to computerization.

Just as important as the efficiency and organization provided by the system are the respect and recognition that come with greatly enhanced job performance. Typically, housekeepers rarely hear about the crystal clear windows or the spotless floors, but they are always informed of the one missed smudge or single piece of lint. At Twin Towers, housekeeping and laundry have finally emerged from the basement and are taking their rightful place alongside other departments. The importance of the housekeeper's role in creating and maintaining a positive first impression for prospective residents, family members, and surveyors is now fully acknowledged.

The following list of the Twin Tower's housekeeping computer files demonstrates the versatility of such a system and the ease with which it is customized to meet the needs of any facility, regardless of size and the level of care provided:

Inventory (Daily Supplies)

All resident and facility-owned items are listed in an ongoing, continually updated inventory file. Possessions acquired, removed, or changing hands (from furniture to clothing) can be located instantaneously. An updated list of personal belongings assures families of decreased or discharged residents that all items are easily located.

Additional files keep track of the inventory and location of model apartments for viewing by prospective residents and guest rooms for family members who wish to spend the night. Both types of rooms change routinely with admissions to the residential facility, and those changes are communicated instantly.

Inventory Troubleshooting

A file of serial numbers on all equipment not only tracks its location and pattern of use, but also monitors maintenance and service, identifying troublesome equipment and helping to anticipate the need for replacement.

Cycle Cleaning

Every room in the facility (resident quarters, offices, common areas) has its own schedule for annual services (walls washed and painted/windows washed, carpet cleaned). A file of these schedules permits planning and any necessary changes well in advance.


Housekeeping supplies the billing department with periodic printouts of a precise running record of all time, services, and items provided for each resident. This file, documenting every service performed by housekeeping, is reviewed annually for quality monitoring and control.

Resident and Departmental Requests

Requests by residents or staff for specific items are entered into their own file as they come in, matched with existing inventory, or held until bulk purchases can be made.

Staff Scheduling

With over 60 different schedules, a single change almost always creates a domino effect. The scheduling file enables instantaneous changes and distribution to all relevant staff.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions for all Twin Towers staff members are stored, printed, and easily revised as needed for interviewing and hiring -- a bonus in view of the recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act. Printouts of changes in duties are read and signed by all appropriate staff.

Additional files store inservice materials and attendance records on all personnel.

Event Scheduling

Every month, the housekeeping staff produces and distributes a calendar for all events, large and small. This July's 46-page calendar allowed the staff to schedule all set-ups, tear-downs, and resets without concern about conflicts. Printouts allow all departments to plan accordingly.


A constantly updated file of professional associations and members facilitates communication and allows for easy nationwide exchange of information.

The computer system also provides some services beyond the Word Perfect capabilities. The E-mail system has revolutionized intra- and inter-departmental communication, replacing the never-read memo and the unanswered phone with messages that appear on PC monitors and remain on the system until answered. Staff members returning from vacation will never again have to sift through stacks of illegible or misplaced messages. A Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet provides ongoing records of items laundered, by specific material and weight. Needs for specific items (eg, flat sheets, tablecloths) or even for additional help during busy times can be anticipated well in advance.

Finally, an Ohio Timekeeping System using Kronos timeclocks has rendered time cards obsolete, with barcoded ID badges used to clock in and out and all information displayed on the PC monitor.

In summary, these are the ingredients for upgrading housekeeping functions in a modern, cost-efficient facility. The computer helps the staff make it happen.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Medquest Communications, LLC
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Bowern, Barbara
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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