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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette When she's not busy with her housekeeping and laundry supervisor duties at Bethlehem Woods, Geraldine Key is happy to go around and check on residents.

Sunday, June 24, 2018 1:00 am

Willing to lend a helping hand

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette


Name: Geraldine Key

Age: 67

Title: Housekeeping and laundry supervisor, Bethlehem Woods Nursing & Rehabilitation

Background: Key has worked in multiple health care settings, including another local nursing facility where she started in dietary – washing dishes, fixing meal trays and cooking occasionally – but was eventually promoted into a supervisory role in environmental services. She also worked at the old Lutheran Hospital when it was on Fairfield. She's been with Bethlehem Woods 20 years.

Geraldine Key – along with her staff – is tasked with keeping it clean and tidy at Bethlehem Woods Nursing & Rehabilitation.

But if Key, the housekeeping and laundry supervisor, notices someone in another department needs a helping hand, she lends hers.

“She's very, very observant, whether it's the kitchen area, the dining or nursing. If she sees they are struggling, she will jump in ... to make sure we take care of our residents,” said JoElyn Morris, executive director of Bethlehem Woods, a 90-bed, skilled nursing facility that is part of the American Senior Communities.

Depending on staffing, Key has been known to do occasional walk-throughs after church on Sundays, quick checks to make sure everything is running smoothly.

A 20-year employee at Bethlehem Woods, Key is paid hourly and “knows not to abuse overtime,” Morris said.

“If she has overtime, I'll know it was truly because she was helping,” Morris said. “If she was here, it was because she needed to be here.”

Key has a staff of about 12, most of them younger than she. She's known for mentoring, Morris said.

One long-term housekeeping employee was at Bethlehem Woods when Key started, but she hired the rest on her team.

Key doesn't mind working alongside employees, making sure they learn to handle tasks appropriately.

“I'm patient with them,” she said.

At 67, Key could be retired – or at least setting a date. But don't expect any parties soon, signifying her decision to leave the workforce.

“I've thought of it, but I just love what I do, and I'm still in good health,” said Key, whose husband, Leo, is retired.

In the mornings, the Alabama native said she likes to greet Bethlehem Woods residents with a cheery “Good morning.” She enjoys connecting with them – and making them smile.

“My task is housekeeping and laundry, but I just do it all,” she said. “If it takes dancing, singing, whatever to make their day, I will do that.”

Once or twice, Key said she's even called family members of Bethlehem Woods residents to see if they have any concerns and ask “what can we do to better help their loved one.”

Her mother and mother-in-law had to live in nursing facilities for periods of time. It's a challenging shift for some families, but Key said she was at ease.

“When it was time for them to go to a nursing home, I had no concerns because I just knew someone would treat them they way I treat people here,” she said. “I had no doubt.”