Thursday, 1 January 2015

Name tags and labels for the elderly and dependent ~ a top priority

The labelling of clothing and other personal items is one very simple way to prepare for the possibility of hospitalisation and / or rest home care, one which I rate as a top priority.  It does require time and effort but can be quite a pleasant task; I unexpectedly found I rather enjoyed labelling Ellen's things once I got into the swing of it even though I didn't have the leisure of doing it ahead of time.

Get a good supply and start sewing them in - or get someone else to do them for you, but one way or another, get them in.  Do it before you need to, as keeping track of unnamed clothing in both hospitals and resthomes takes time and considerable nervous energy, and some of it is likely be lost forever.  Institutional laundries handle vast quantities of clothing and staff can't be expected to keep track of unidentified individual items. 

How many is enough?  The rest home Ellen moved into advised that the usual order was for two hundred.  Yes, that's right, 200.  I raised my eyebrows over what seemed like a high number, but accepted that the administrators there were likely to know best, and they were quite right.  Think about pairs of socks, undergarments, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, nightwear, slippers, as well as all the other garments, plus such things as personal bed linen.  Even if you end up with more than you need it's far simpler to have some left over than not to have enough.  When sewing in Ellen I used them all up, so now carefully remove and re-use labels from any garments once they are no longer wanted.

Name tags are vastly preferable to marking pencil, which is permanent and can be untidy.  Permanent marking also makes it harder to pass on clothes once they are finished with. 

Cotton tape factory-printed labels with the first initial followed by the family name have proved more than adequate: they are easy to sew on and comfortable to wear.  The ones I got came in a continuous roll.  If yours come like this leave enough blank tape on either side of the name to turn the raw ends under and stitch the label flat.  

I have no experience with iron-on ones and if these appeal suggest that enquiry be made as to how long they are expected to remain secure and how easy they are to remove once no longer needed.

Cost: we paid less than $40 for the batch of 200 cloth tape ones described above.  Prices vary from one provider to another, as do styles and types of labels.

Where to put them: I was instructed to sew them inside the centre back, near the top edge of all clothing.  In tops this means just below the collar (if put inside the collar itself it may show when worn), and in pants, in the back of the waistband.  This makes labels easy to see and speads up handling by staff, and once I got into the way of managing Ellen's clothes I could see the sense of this: I can easily see what is hers and spot any items belonging to other residents that have been incorrectly put in with her things.

What colour of thread to use: This depends on one's personal colour scheme.  I most often used white, cream, grey and black, but also mid green, pale blue and brown, colours which Ellen wears a lot.

Other items which require different sorts of labels, such as shoes, phones and glasswear I labelled with paper stick-on labels covered with strips of clear packing tape which protect them from water.  On a few items I even used elastoplast tape marked with ballpoint pen.    

I can't overstate the value of getting things labelled: 
Ellen was hospitalised without warning in the middle of the night and we were quite unprepared in this respect with the result that some garments were lost and others had her name untidily marked in with ugly permanent marker pencil by staff.

Personal laundry bags prominently positioned and clearly marked with the name of the resident or patient and stating that family will do all washing are unlikely to prevent the loss of items.  Staff are looking after lots of people and will tend to go about their duties according to their usual routine and may automatically put things into the communal laundry.

Even when institutional laundries set aside unlabelled clothing in Lost Property boxes it is difficult to know one set of socks and underwear from another.  Furthermore, unless you know that things have gone missing they may sit in such boxes unclaimed until otherwise disposed of; and, from a hastily packed suitcase of clothes, you may never realise that some things have disappeared.  I know all this first hand. 

For those not expecting to go into rest home care in the near future, if ever, the value of name tags is still worth considering: unexpected accidents and illness can happen to any of us at any time.  Even if only underwear, socks and nightwear are labelled, that will give you and your family and friends a chance to get the remainder stitched in to less urgently needed clothing.  And remember a tag for your suitcase and another to keep in your handbag.

Click on the link below to find a complete list of articles in this series:

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