Why I Put The Love in “A Love For Life”

Good question!

It’s amazing how many times I get asked, "How did you come up with that name?" Well… let me tell you.


What is Love?

There are many forms of love; love for your parents, love for your siblings, love for your partner, love for the divine, love for a pet, love for your country, etc. Love is very hard to define. It’s something we find easier to feel and experience than articulate and discuss.

"Love is what makes the world go round" so they say.  This is a statement we are all familiar with and there’s a lot of truth to it. Love is the strongest emotion we have. Much stronger than pride and hate. It’s what binds us together and is the essence of our humanity. And love has the power to heal and transform.

Surviving a Terrorist Attack

In the video below Gill Hicks tells a story of compassion, humanity and love, borne from surviving a terrorist attack on the London subway on July 7 2005. That compassion, humanity and love she experienced from first responders gave her the strength to fight and survive.

The Transformative Power of Love

It’s the healing and transformative power of love that is the essence of "love" in A Love For Life™. A love that is based on passion; in this case, my passion for elder care. It’s also a love based on compassion, affection and kindness that can be expressed in such simple gestures as a kind word, a kiss on the cheek or holding of the hand. A love that provides strength, raises you up when you feel down, makes you feel good, puts a smile on your face, overcomes challenges, eases pain, energizes you and makes you feel happy.

This transformative power can be seen every day on the faces and in the gestures of our residents and of course my staff. For without my passion and without the staff‘s compassion, affection, and kindness there would be no "love" in A Love For Life™. Together, we are the "love transmitters" and we work extremely hard at it day in day out.

Love Can Extend Your Life

Out of the blue, in a recent discussion with a regular visiting physician, he remarked that the culture and the standard of care at A Love For Life™ has at least in one particular case, added 1 to 2 years to our resident’s life.   That comment really tugged at my heart strings.  Why?  Because five years ago when I gave so much thought to our name, my mission was to apply the truly transformative power of love to all that we do.  This comment was validation! We have ignited "A Love For Life" in each and every one of our residents. And that is all I set out to do…..


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Food Safety Is Not An Afterthought

Food Safety Is Not An Afterthought

All of us have to eat.

We too often take it for granted.  We get up in the morning and have breakfast of our choice, followed later by a midday lunch and capped in the early evening by dinner, sometimes with a cocktail. Unless we’re hosting a dinner party or a weekend BBQ we tend not to apply too much conscious thought to the daily process of eating. (Foodie’s excepted of course!)

Assumptions Can Be Dangerous

This lack of conscious thought can be dangerous because it leads our subconscious to make a lot of assumptions. When we go out to eat at various restaurants we assume our food is of high quality and not riddled with potentially deadly food bacteria.  We assume when we purchase food at the market that it is free of bacteria and viruses that cause food borne illnesses.  But of late, it seems like we are hearing more and more about food safety issues with recalls due to salmonella, e-coli and other bacteria.

The Elderly Are Particularly Susceptible to Food Borne Illness

In my position I am very cognizant of the fact that the elderly are much more susceptible to food borne illness than the general population, mostly because of compromised immune systems.  Our industry is heavily regulated and one of the main areas of regulation is food safety.  All of our staff are trained in basic food safety.  Our kitchens are inspected frequently by City and State Environmental Health agencies.  Proudly, in our five years of operations, we have not received any violations regarding kitchen/food safety at either of our locations.  This is a tremendous accomplishment given the frequency and depth of our kitchen inspections.  It is also yet another testament to the amazing job the staff at both locations are doing.

Food Safety Is Of The Utmost Importance

Knowing how susceptible our residents are to food borne illness, we pay particular attention to our kitchen practices. While not required to do so, we took an extra step and sent our chef and kitchen personnel to the nationally recognized ServeSafe Program for Managers and Food Handlers.  ServeSafe is a well known and respected National Restaurant Association program.
Our staff are trained on:

  • The Importance of Food Safety
  • Good Personal Hygiene
  • Time and Temperature Control
  • Preventing Cross-Contamination
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing
  • Safe Food Preparation
  • Receiving and Storing Food
  • Methods of Thawing, Cooking, Cooling and Reheating Food
  • HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)
  • Food Safety Regulations
  • And more…
Chef ThereseCongratulations to Chef Therese for passing the ServeSafe Manager certification program!
CarolCongratulations to Carol for passing the ServeSafe Food Handler certification program!
glazed chicken and cauliflowerGlazed Chicken and Cauliflower
Salmon and GnocchiSalmon and Gnocchi

Also many congratulations to Margaret for passing the ServeSafe Food Handler certification program last year!

As you can see from the photo’s Chef Therese’s magnificent culinary concoctions are not only absolutely delicious, but prepared in full compliance with industry established food safety practices. Well done Chef Therese, Carol and Margaret for doing A Love For Life™ so proud!


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New Technology Delivers Greater Resident Benefits

New Technology Delivers Greater Resident Benefits

I have always been an advocate for new technology where it makes sense to adopt it. The adoption is never without its headaches though! Nothing ever works as advertised the first go round and of course there is a tremendous learning curve for all concerned.

A few years back we successfully converted our medication management from a paper system to an electronic system.  The process became much safer and much more efficient. If you can make the process safer for the residents and more efficient for the staff it is a win-win for all!  As painful as that transition was, we’ve not had a medication error in three and a half years – a considerable achievement!

Even more significantly is that the increased efficiency means that the staff have to spend 50% less time dispensing medication. The time saved goes towards providing more quality care for our residents, something they truly appreciate and our staff love doing. Everybody wins!

So the "pain and suffering" I and my staff had to endure during the new technology implementation was well worth it! Both the residents’ quality of life and staff morale was lifted up a notch as a result.

Here We Go Again!

So being the glutton for punishment that I am, I have been working with our pharmacy to pilot a new process which takes our medication administration to an even greater level of safety and efficiency.  Beginning May 16th, we are piloting this new process on four of our residents.

DISPILL is an innovative, cold-sealed multi-dose packaging system that makes it easy to manage and take medications. Each blister pack contains multiple medications that are grouped together based on the time of the day you are directed to take them. Each medication bubble is detachable from the rest of the card and contains the following information:

  • Patient Name
  • Rx Number
  • Date of Medication Administration
  •  Time of Medication Administration
  • Name, Dose, and Quantity of Medications Contained Inside the Bubble
  • Our Pharmacy Logo

Dispill packs come prepackaged from the pharmacy so the staff simply need to peel off the pack that contains all the medications for that particular time of day and give to the resident.  It saves staff time from having to take a pill from several separate packs; in some cases, more than 10 separate packs per resident.  The timesaving will be enormous when you consider we administer ~600 medications each day!

We are looking forward to a successful test run over the next 30 days.  Soon we will have all residents on the new system and on our way to yet more staff hours per resident ratio! That’s worth a few headaches in the beginning in anyone’s book!

I would like to thank our pharmacy, Rx Innovations, for introducing the new process and for teaming up with us on the pilot trial.  I would also like to thank my wonderful staff for their willingness to go along with my new technology mania!


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Grrrrrr….those darn falls!

Those Darn Falls

I’m sure you all know an elderly relative or friend who has fallen. Falls are without a doubt the most common incident in this business.  In spite of our best and most preventive efforts, falls happen and are common.

Hands Down…

…the most dreaded calls I receive are those that inform me of a resident fall.  Why so dreaded?  Because often times these incidents lead to serious fall-related injuries.  Other incidents such as heart attacks and strokes, well just happen.   Falls however seem so preventative.  In reality, there are many age-related issues that result in falls.  As we age, we begin to experience various "system limitations."  For example, our vision and hearing deteriorate; our balance and coordination are not what they use to be. Our bones and muscles are not as strong as before. Medications may alter our physical and mental ability.  Dementia can have an impact as individuals often do not remember that they are unable to walk and try anyway.  We may lose the ability to gauge depth perception.

According to the National Institutes of Health  each year, more than 1.6 million older U.S. adults go to emergency departments for fall-related injuries. Among older adults, falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury deaths.

Fractures caused by falls can lead to hospital stays and disability. Most often, fall-related fractures are in the person’s hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand, or ankle.  Hip fractures are one of the most serious fractures and can lead to loss of independence.  Many will need long term care after a fall.

Plenty of Tears Too

How many times have I walked around the corner after a fall and found a staff tearful?  Plenty of times because like me, they feel so responsible.  "If only I didn’t leave the room"; if only I had done this and that.  I am proud of the sensitivity of my staff but it breaks my heart that they feel so responsible.  The fact of the matter is we can only do so much to prevent falls.  We do everything we can and that’s all we can do.

Dr. Standoli, a Geriatric physician is very consoling, thankfully. "You cannot keep your residents in a bubble – they deserve a quality of life."

Good News!

The good news is that there are some things that can be done to help prevent falls.

  • Exercise!  Maintaining strong muscles and bones are probably the best thing we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones "fall-safe."
  • Make sure eyes and ears are checked routinely
  • Always wear glasses if they are needed (be careful with bi and trifocals as they can actually cause falls)
  • If you feel dizzy or unusually sleepy, tell your doctor
  • Get up from your chair/bed slowly as blood pressure could drop quickly causing lightheadness or dizziness
  • Get enough sleep as sleep deprivation can lead to falls
  • Wear rubber-soled shoes and be careful with slippers that could hang on carpet or slide on hard floors
  • Limit alcohol intake as even a small amount call affect balance and reflexes
  • Maintain a well-lit environment
  • Install grab bars

A good friend of mine was leaning over my shoulder as I was finishing this up. He suggested (colorfully!) that I ought to add "don’t be crazy!" to the list. Translation being – know your own limitations and don’t push beyond them.

The gentleman in question this past December jumped off the back of the trailer, hit a patch of ice, slipped, fell and broke his wrist. He had to have surgery and is still in rehab. The experience made him realize that he wasn’t a teenager anymore and had no business jumping off the backs of trailers! (If truth be told his actual age qualifies him to become an A Love For Life™ resident!)

So please take my friends experience to heart as well. Walk around that hole in the pavement, don’t try and jump over it. Walk carefully up stairs, don’t try and run up them. Don’t plan on taking a 10 mile bike ride this weekend, if you haven’t ridden a bike for a few years. In other words – don’t be crazy!

For more helpful information regarding age-related falls, read the Falls and  Fractures Age Page. 

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The Dust Has Finally Settled!

Lee Straughan, my father, and I together in his last week

You may have noticed my blog hit a speed bump recently, well not recently but since last summer. That was the time when "A Love for Life – Alcazar" began to take on a life of its own after a strenuous two year planning, development, construction, and setting up period.

I thought after our Grand Opening I could finally take a breather, settle back into my old routine and pick up my blog where I left off. How naive was that! Reality hit me square in the face and forced me to ramp up my operational tempo even further! There were new staff to hire and train, new residents to assess and admit, and I had to get my arms around a business that all of a sudden tripled in size!

Elsie and Felicia

Elsie is a new resident and Felicia a new member of staff at ALFL – Alcazar

Sadly and most profoundly, I also lost my father during this time.  It’s been a very emotional few months with plenty of ups and downs. Intense joy, happiness and pride at building a much larger "A Love For Life" with wonderful new family members – both residents and staff.

And profound sadness and heartbreak at losing my father, my biggest cheerleader, butt-kicker, mentor, and business coach. He was with me from day one through all the planning stages and managed to cut the ribbon at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony too. I know he was proud of what we achieved. He remains in my heart and even now still kicks my butt when I need it the most!

Peter & Dick

Peter and Dick. New residents getting to know each other

The next few months will be busy, busy, busy! Our annual Spring Training for the staff with topics such as Dementia, Palliative and Hospice Care and General Care on the agenda. And of course every day we continue on our path of assisted living excellence.

From here on in I promise to keep you all updated on our news and general "goings on" at "A Love for Life."

If you or your loved one(s) are considering assisted living I would be delighted to talk to you. Call me at (505) 350-2563

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Residential Assisted Living Albuquerque NM New Mexico