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In "Ask The vendor," NURSING HOMES seeks the views of top executives of major nursing home product vendors on purchasing questions of interest to their potential customers. For this issue, we asked manufacturers of furniture:

"What should one look for in terms of durability and low maintenance?" "What are special considerations regarding resident safety?" Their answers follow:

* Tommy Martin, Vice-president of Healthcare Sales, American of Martinsville: "The vendor's reputation and length of time in business are key factors. Making wood furniture is not an easy thing to do, and takes years of experience. To veneer panels right is a science; to kiln-dry wood is a science; to finish right is a science.

That's why it is important to know who actually makes the furniture. Some vendors are basically marketers who sub-contract the manufacturing. You should also take the time to actually visit the factory and see how the furniture is made.

"Turn the piece upside down and, if there's a dust cloth, rip it off. Is the wood kiln-dried hardwood, which will prevent splitting, cracking and breaking of joints? What is the ILD rating of the foam? it ranges from 1.0 to 3.5, with the highest being the most durable. Does the furniture meet stringent fire codes, the best being California 133? If residents die from fire-related injuries, and the furniture contributed, you are wide open for liability. The added fire protection adds cost but, in the long run, it's cheap.

"As for fabric durability, it has to be cleanable. The best alternatives for this are vinyl and vinyl-laminated fabric. The latter is good but presents difficulties in manufacturing, so you may have more assurance of stain resistance with vinyl.

For safety, you'll want no sharpedges on your casegoods, and chairs should be ergonomically designed so that residents can get in and out of them easily. Special features in seat depth or arm height are fine, but they should work together.

"An administrator once told me about a furniture line he had purchased from another vendor, |I just found out how expensive cheap is.' You want to make sure you have enough money in your budget to buy good quality. As the president of a large nursing home chain once said, |We plan to refurbish every seven years, but in reality we know it'll be more like 10 years, but when you get down right to it, it'll be more like 13 years.' You have to think of durability in those terms."

* Jack Sheehan, Vice-president of Marketing, Joerns Healthcare: "A major factor in low maintenance of casegoods is sealed edges on drawer fronts and body panels. If they are not properly sealed, exposure to cleaning fluids and body fluids will result in absorption of these substances, with odor problems and possible warping.

"Are drawers easy to clean? Can they be easily removed for that purpose, or are there plastic inserts for holding personal items, with the inserts being easily removed and cleaned? Are parts, such as drawer fronts and slides, easily replaceable? This is not always the case, depending on the construction. Are there vent holes in the back of the casegoods to allow air circulation and prevent mustiness and odor? Will the glides that the furniture sits on move easily without scratching the floors?

With upholstered pieces, you want laminated surfaces that feel good and yet are easy to clean. Removable cushions are also helpful for cleaning. An ergonomic design is critical for resident independence and ease of use, and the prevention of falls.

"As for safety, the major considerations are rounded comers and edges where residents might make physical contact with the item. The piece should be stable enough to avoid tipping if someone leans on or bumps up against it. Drawers should have stops so do they are not easy to pull out and drop. And, more for functionality than safety, perhaps, hardware should be easily usable by stiff, arthritic hands.

"Factors to look for in judging durability are scratch-resistance, impact-resistance, degree of liquid absorption, and strength of construction--for example, the tendency of some furniture to loosen its joints and rack, or lean to one side or the other."

* John Rademacher, Director of Marketing, Nemschoff Chairs: "Ease of repair is a major issue in low maintenance over the long term. If a piece is worn out or broken or needs reupholstering, housekeeping or maintenance should be able to repair it or remove the upholstery and recover it simply and easily. There are a lot of products now that allow you to remove the upholstery easily, but watch someone try to put the covering back on. You won't see many such demonstrations, because for many products it takes too long or ends up not looking nice as it should.

Being able to do this easily and successfully depends on how well the furniture was manufactured in the first place. Parts fitting well, lined up properly, world-class joinery -- all of this comes from the quality put into the original piece.

"A big problem is that the people who have to maintain the furniture-housekeeping or maintenance -- never see the demonstration. Often they can tell immediately if some design feature is going to present a problem, and their comments may indicate to you that just going with the low bid could be a mistake.

As for safety, you want elderly residents who are often very unstable when ambulatory to see your furniture as an |oasis of stability.' It should be easy to get in and out of, and comfortable for long-term sitting. Also important is adherence to California Technical Bulletin 133 for fire safety. This means that the furniture has been laboratory tested to ensure that the complete chair is self-extinguishing. It could buy you that extra time you may need to get elderly residents to safety and may induce your potential liability.

"As for durability, furniture in this setting has to withstand a lot of heavy, hard use, frequent cleaning, and quite a bit of moving about. So much is driven by price in this field, but the old axiom holds: You get what you pay for. So much of a product's durability can be ruined by the short cuts a vendor may have to take to make the low bid.

"Esthetics are important, and relying on interior designers, architects or specifiers is fine. But often their thrust is more toward esthetic appeal than durability. Ask potential vendors about their joinery, finish durability, availability of replacement parts, whether they manufacture the furniture and, if so, how long they've done so. Ask questions about all of this, and request samples for evaluation. Finally, ask if the vendor is willing to offer you a lifetime warranty, and if not, why not."
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Title Annotation:Ask the Vendor; views of top executive of nursing-home facilities companies
Publication:Nursing Homes
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Previous Article:Winds of change in health care financing - and will long-term care come first?
Next Article:Computerization: where do we go from here?

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