While many housekeepers barely know the people they clean for, Beatriz McClean and Tom Feeney, who both work at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket, New York, enjoy getting acquainted with the residents of the facilities they maintain.
Jefferson’s Ferry is a 50-acre community made up of apartments and cottages for seniors. Some of the residents are able to live independently, while others need daily assistance.
“There’s a sense of getting close to the residents, not like cleaning at a hotel,” said Feeney, who has worked at the community for nine years. “You can form relations with the people here and help make them feel at home.”
“We love what we’re doing for the residents. We’re doing it from the heart,” said McClean, who has worked at Jefferson’s Ferry for almost six years.
Accepting the rewards and challenges
Although both McClean and Feeney enjoy their jobs, they admitted it is not without challenges. Foremost is the labor shortage affecting service sectors, including the cleaning industry.
“We have been very short-staffed lately. Instead of coming in and doing one person’s job, we’re probably doing three people’s jobs,” said Feeney. Fortunately, Feeney is a person who doesn’t like to sit still. “I like cleaning. I could not sit at an office job,” he said.
McClean said the recognition the housekeepers receive has kept her going through the rough times. “So many people recognize our hard work, especially the residents,” she said, explaining community members will email the housekeepers’ supervisors to express how well everything is cleaned. Feeney added that the residents will often thank him personally or fill out comment cards indicating they are very satisfied with the cleaning services.
Cleaning for residents’ welfare
Housekeepers at Jefferson’s Ferry spend two hours every other week cleaning each of the 30 cottages that house independent residents. They spend an hour every other week cleaning the apartments that house a mix of independent, assisted living, and memory care residents. The housekeepers also clean common areas, restrooms, and offices.
Feeney noted that all the residents have their cleanliness preferences, with some very particular about their living spaces and others more lax.
“You go into some spaces where the residents almost seem to have OCD about cleanliness, and you walk into others and….oh my!” he said.
Despite the condition they find the rooms in, Feeney and McClean said their objective is to clean the rooms for health and comfort.
Both housekeepers agreed that the most challenging time of their careers was during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all the precautions they needed to take to keep everyone safe.
Feeney recalled bundling up in personal protection equipment (PPE), supplementing their usual disposable gloves with N95 face
masks, hair coverings, and gowns. “It was a major process taking all that PPE off after every room and then putting more on before entering the next,” Feeney recalled. “It was the most challenging time I can remember,” added McClean. “But we got through it, and now I find my job very enjoyable on a daily basis.”