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Era Living: All About Housekeeping

Almaz Berhe Era Living

People behind the scenes make Era Living‘s amazing clock tick. Housekeeping Services Director Almaz Berhe joins Suzanne to talk about housekeeping amenities typically provided. Almaz has been University House Wallingford for the last 19 years.

Almaz says, “So every resident, they know their housekeeper. They build that relationship, and the housekeeper knows the resident very well because they know what they need, how they want their bed to be done. Each resident has a different way they like it done… When you come to the front door in the community, it’s important how it smells, how it looks, and the common area where the residents sit. The housekeeper department is responsible to have all these areas looking good, because this is their living room, their front door, when somebody comes to visit family.”

There’s more about Era Living at Answers for Elders and at eraliving.com. University House Wallingford is located at 4400 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA 98103, and can be reached at (253) 765-9985.

Suzanne: And welcome everyone back to Answers for Elders Radio Network. And we are here with the Era Living staff, and I am so thrilled to have an amazing community and organization like we’re working with, because we’re meeting all these amazing staff members. And we’ve been talking on our segments a lot about all the amenities that go on in senior living, the quality of life for seniors, different things like that. And there’s these people behind the scenes that make this amazing clock tick in your communities. And I’m gonna introduce each and every one of you to a wonderful lady by the name of Almaz Berhe, and she is the Housekeeping Services Director for University House in Wallingford, in Seattle. And Almaz, welcome to the show.

Almaz Berhe: Thank you, Suzanne.

Suzanne: I’m glad you’re here. You come from a hospitality background, but how did you get into your position?

Almaz Berhe: It’s a great question, thank you. I was working in a hotel business for the last 18 years in hospitality, after I graduate from hotel-motel restaurant management in Spokane, Washington. I came to Seattle and I start working in a hotel, first when I say it is a Double Tree in South Center still there, and work through the way up to be executive housekeeper director, housekeeping director, open three property in Seattle. And then finally I said, ok, the hospitality is a good place to work, but is that just a person in the face of the people? And you have to be smiling all the time, you are on stage and everything. So I said, maybe I will change. I go to a retirement community. So I started working in University house, and worked there for the last 19 years.

Suzanne: And this is what we keep hearing all the time, that people that work for Era Living, they are there for a long time. And this is a thing that is so exciting about your organization, and that really goes to show the quality of people that are there, and also how great that you were treated within the organization, as well as then you have the ability to treat your seniors in the capacity that you do.

You’re kind of the eyes and the ears of everything that goes on in the communities. You’re always checking to make sure that things are in order, and if there’s anything on the floor, or any spills or anything like that, you guys are on top of it. So tell us a little bit about your role with the organization, and how housekeeping works into the picture of everything.

Almaz Berhe: I say we work too close with the resident, and close with the resident is staff housekeeping on a daily basis with the resident, every day. And my position is supervising, working around the building, making sure everything is done up to our mission, to get a very good environment, safe, clean, and for the resident, as a bookkeeper by going to each apartment with the resident daily. So that builds a relationship and I have my staff, most of them for 15, 16 years. And that makes the resident have a trust in the staff, we’re working because they see the same stuff, and they know what the resident needs, their habits, and everything,

Suzanne: And that speaks to the comfort level of a resident, because if a resident sees the same person over and over again, they feel like family, there’s that trust factor that happens where you’re not seeing a new face every day. And that’s important. How often do the housekeeping staff and the residents interact? How do they get to know each other?

Almaz Berhe: Because the housekeeper we have is continuous, not like one week here and one week there. So every resident, they know their housekeeper, the week theu come in, and they build that relationship, and the housekeeper knows the resident very well because they know what they need, how they want their bed to be even done. Each one is different. When we say hospitality, look at it the other way: a hotel is different because everything you do is the same. Here with the resident, you work too close with the resident, making sure what they need, what they prefer.

Suzanne: And a lot of these residents, they have pets. So when you go in to clean, the pet knows you. That’s a big factor too.

Almaz Berhe: Yes, resident have pet, that what make it even for the housekeeper, making sure the pet will not be out of the room, making sure if they need help, we do some service for the pet too. If they need it, we are happy, for the resident, to do it. The resident will love that because they love their pet, and the same time the housekeeper coming in all the time, they know her. It knows them and they become a family, so we’ll have a trust built between the resident and the housekeeper. If they see something they will come to me, and they ask a question, or report to me, so I can help if a situation comes up.

Suzanne: So we’ve been talking about housekeeping, but just in a nutshell, you go in and you clean once a week. What is all is involved in the cleaning aspect? What do you do?

Almaz Berhe: OK, that is great question, that is our daily life. So the first thing they have to do, most of the resident need, we change the bedding with a fresh clean linen, that will be done in-house. So the housekeeper will have to put a fresh linen in their bed, and each bed has a different standard, different way the residents likes — each one has a different way they like it done. But if they have a continuance, the same housekeeper, so that housekeeper will make sure she doing it right, because that’s what they prefer. And then we have to change the linen in the bathroom, give them a new linen, towel, what they need. And the other things we do, we clean the kitchen, taking the trash out. ensure everything sanitized, the floor clean and washed, dusting, vacuuming. Sometimes requesting they want a rollaway bed. We are looking for it again. Sometimes they want personal laundry available for it. So when they have that build the trust, they want the service to be done. So they want it to be done. We will do it too.

Suzanne: And when you are in the community, you notice things around the community as well. So you take care of the community itself. What kinds of things do you notice? And how do those observations help to support the residents?

Almaz Berhe: That’s a great question too. I’m saying it is like the community. When you come to the front door in the community, that is important how that place smells, how that place looks — that is all housekeeping responsibility, making sure everything is clean, and the common area where the residents sit, or they have game tables or they have things need to be done. So the housekeeper department is responsible to have all this area looking good, up to their expectation, because this is their living room, their front door when somebody comes to visit family. So we’re making sure if the carpet is spotted, it will be cleaned immediately.

Suzanne: And in the apartments themselves, you may notice things that are awry, or things that are different, because you’re used to the dealing with a resident. So you might notice changes that you work with the nursing staff, et cetera.

Almaz Berhe: We see a lot of behavior change, or it is a physical change in the resident, and the first person to notice it will be the housekeeper, because she sees them, most of the people are in independent living. So they see that, they will report it to me. And really they will like to take care of the residents. They want to make sure they’re OK. But if any change happens, they report it to me, and I will come to the resident, and I will talk with them, and I will take it up to the nursing because the staff, they’re the ones who know how to accommodate the resident with the need.

Suzanne: Sometimes residents will have an accident, they’ll spill something in their kitchen area, or tip over a plant, or something like that. So you guys are kind of on call for stuff like that, are you not?

Almaz Berhe: Yes. That is our regular work, we do the cleaning daily at the same time, yes.

Suzanne: “My dog had an accident.” You probably get that a lot.

Almaz Berhe: Yes, we’ll take care of you, we are here for service. So we’re making sure we take care of the resident. If anything they call about, we are immediately right away there to take care of it.

Suzanne: And that’s the beauty of everything in living in a community like yours, because you guys do care, you care about the residents, you want their quality of life to be as good as possible. And that is part of that mission that you guys live by every day. Almaz, how do we reach you guys? What, what’s your website again?

Almaz Berhe: EraLiving.com.

Suzanne: Fabulous. And we’re looking forward to learning more every month as we learn a lot about your communities, the different types of things you do. Almaz, thank you for all you do for our seniors because I know you guys go above and beyond. You’re amazing.

Almaz Berhe: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to explain myself, what I am doing, and housekeepers are always taking care of our residents.

Suzanne: Thank you.