There comes a point when you are caring for a loved one, when you have to ask yourself what is the best decision for me as well as for the person I am caring for. Whether you decide to continue to care for your loved one or start to explore other options such as a professional care home, take the time to insure your own personal health and well being. There is a reason that during the safety briefing on a plane they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first, then help your love ones. If you don’t take care of yourself you have no way to care for someone else. “There is a cost to caring,” states Charles Figley, an expert in trauma and researcher in the field of burnout; he comments that compassion fatigue is something that can occur when caring for someone long term. Take a moment to examine how you feel and see if you may be experiencing any level of burnout or even compassion fatigue and then take the time to explore ways to best care for yourself as well as those you love.

Before we go much further, let’s briefly explore the difference between burnout vs. compassion fatigue.  Figley describes burnout as the end result of a gradual process of wearing down.  It is the long-term consequences of unaddressed compassion fatigue, resulting in emotional exhaustion and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment and achievement.  Recovering from burnout is often a more lengthy process.

Compassion fatigue is often a result of the daily care we do, and is a more immediate specific response.   It is often characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion; symptoms resembling depression; and usually a shift in a person’s sense of hope and optimism about the future value of the care they are offering.  This may not be a constant feeling, but it something that comes and goes.  The recovery from compassion fatigue is often less lengthy then burnout.

Are you isolating yourself, bottling up your emotions, having nightmares or even physical ailments? Do you suffer from compulsive behaviors such as over eating or over spending or have difficulty concentrating. Do you feel stressed out or depressed? These are symptoms of compassion fatigue. There is no cure for compassion fatigue but by practicing good self care techniques daily can help you to be physically and emotionally healthy and decrease these symptoms.

A self-care plan begins with you.  It begins with being kind to yourself, becoming aware of how things are effecting you (both physically and emotionally), setting boundaries, expressing your needs, taking actions to aide yourself, surrounding yourself with individuals that listen and support you and being able to listen and support others around you.  Although when you care for someone it seems like you have no time, you need to take the time to have healthy eating and exercise habits. Get plenty of rest and hydrate yourself. Develop good time and self management skills even if it means saying no.  Have a support system, take breaks and try to enjoy a balance in your life. Do not give up all of your friends and hobbies.  Pick your battles and even though it is hard, consider professional care givers, if not on a regular basis then consider short term help.  You can sometimes schedule breaks, where you use a professional care giver in the home or facility for a few weeks a year, allowing yourself to have time to decompress and feel better before you can no longer care for your loved one.
Free memory care ebookAre you searching for a memory care facility for your loved one, but aren’t sure where to start? Our new complimentary ebook, How to Choose a Memory Care Facility for Your Loved One, is a thorough resource that tells you everything you need to consider when making this important decision. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are challenging conditions, both for patients and for their families. There comes a point when the care mom or dad needs goes beyond what adult children can provide on their own. It’s at this stage that families begin to seek out a place where their loved one can not only have their care needs met, but hopefully thrive as well. This guide covers the following:
  • What to look for regarding a facility’s environment, safety, staffing, quality of care, and policies.
  • A checklist of important details that can help you distinguish high-quality care homes from the rest.
  • How to identify signs that a facility has serious underlying problems.
  • Types of facilities that have dedicated staff and highly personalized care.
  • Important considerations when evaluating the cost of memory care.
This ebook is a free resource provided courtesy of Raya’s Paradise. We encourage you to share it with anyone you know who is looking for a memory care facility for a loved one. Click here to access the book in PDF format. For the best quality, we recommend that you download the file to your computer, rather than reading it in your browser.  
Our Los Angeles assisted living facilities are ready for any emergency.

Photo used under Creative Commons from imarcc.

No matter where your loved one’s assisted living facility is located, there’s the chance of a natural disaster. Federal and state laws require that assisted living facilities have a comprehensive disaster plan in writing. Yet, you should not take it for granted that every facility will have an effective plan in place. When interviewing facilities, try to gain a clear understanding of their disaster plan and their capability to carry out that plan. First, ask the management if you can review the facility’s disaster plan yourself. If they seem reluctant to grant this request, that by itself is a red flag. You may not be an emergency preparedness expert, but start by using your basic knowledge and common sense to evaluate the plan. Is something obvious missing? Take yourself through a disaster scenario in your mind. Can you spot potential problems? Ideally, when reading through you’ll have the impression that they’ve thought of everything. Asking to see disaster plans at several different facilities will help you start to recognize which plans are better designed. Evaluate the comprehensiveness of the plan. Does it cover all reasonable possibilities? Any true potential threats should be addressed in this plan. For example: here in California we are not overly concerned about hurricanes, but you would definitely want an assisted living facility to have a plan for earthquakes. Some of the questions you should ask the facility manager or director are:  
  • Does the facility cover these plans with the residents and the staff on a frequent schedule? There should be regular reviews and drills that involve both the residents and the staff. What kind of emergency training do staff members have?
  •  Is someone who is well-versed in the plan and capable of leading staff in carrying it out on site at all times?  Is there a plan to increase staff during a disaster? The number of people necessary to support a facility on a day to day basis may be insufficient during an emergency situation.
  • Are there disaster kits on site? If so, what is included in these kits and how will they be distributed and used in the event of a disaster? A facility should have disaster kits on hand that provide each person with canned food and water for one week. The kit should also contain candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, and first aid and sanitation supplies.
  • Even during an emergency, residents need to continue following their care plans. Ask the facility about their ability to continue without interruption during a disaster. Care plans should be easily accessible.
  • How will essential medications be dispensed during and after a disaster? You will want to be sure your loved one can get their medication during disasters.
  • Is there a plan for how to notify family members in an emergency?
  • How often is the plan updated?
The websites for FEMA and The American Red Cross can provide you with more information about specific types of disasters and improve your ability to evaluate a facility’s preparedness.    
Raya’s Paradise is looking forward to being a Sponsor of the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” on Sunday, November 4th in the Park at  2000 Avenue of the Stars in Century City. Please join us in support of the fight to end this disease. We will have a booth set up and will offer  coffee and pastries as early as 7:30. The opening ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m.  Please stop by our booth to enter  a drawing for a $100.00 Gift Card to “The Grove” (drawing to take place at 11:oo a.m.), and while you’re here you can add your loved one’s name to our “festival of balloons” which will be released at 11:30 a.m.   Please join us in the Park !!  
Your selection of an assisted living facility should involve both tours of the places you are considering and extensive conversations with those running the facility. Comparing different facilities to one another can seem overwhelming. Use the checklist of questions below to help you notice important details that can reveal the true quality of a facility and aid you in the selection process. Note that if you are evaluating assisted living facilities on behalf of a loved one, you should try to involve them in the process and get as much of a sense of their desires as possible. He or she is the one who will actually be living in the facility, and his or her comfort, happiness, and satisfaction is the most important outcome. In General
  • What is your gut feeling about the assisted living facility both at the beginning and end of your visit?
  • Do the current residents seem happy and satisfied?
  • If you are able to talk with residents or their families about their experience, what do they say?
  • What do you learn when you research reviews and other information about the facility online?
  • Is the facility clean and free of odors?
  • Is the temperature appropriate?
  • Does the environment feel attractive and comfortable?
  • How many units are in the facility?
  • Does the assisted living facility offer private or shared rooms, or a mix?
  • What common areas are available?
  • Will any features of the community pose a problem for your condition?
  • Are the rooms large enough to meet your needs comfortably?
  • What are residents allowed to bring with them when they move in?
  • What are residents allowed or not allowed to do within their own rooms?
Nature and Quality of Care and Services
  • Does each resident have a written care plan? How often is it reviewed and revised?
  • Who is involved when assessing the resident’s needs? How much say does the resident have?
  • How does the assisted living facility adapt as the resident’s needs change?
  • What services does the facility offer and how often are they provided?
  • Is staff available to assist the residents 24 hour per day?
  • Are special care units available, for example for dementia patients?
  • How often are meals served, what times, and where?
  • How much variety is there in the menu?
  • Does the kitchen accommodate special needs and requests?
  • Is the facility well lit and does it have clear signage?
  • Are there call buttons in the rooms?
  • Are there safety locks on the windows and doors?
  • Are there handrails in the bathrooms and elsewhere in the facility?
  • Is the carpet firm to assist with walking, and are there non-slip materials on the floor?
  • Is there an emergency generator or another plan in place for power outages?
  • What do the assisted living facility’s fire safety and security systems consist of?
  • What is the plan if a resident wanders off?
  • What is the plan for a resident’s medical emergency?
  • What is the hiring process for new employees? Is there a background check?
  • What are the policies about elder abuse and neglect?
  • Would you or your loved one get along with the assisted living facility’s current residents?
  • How does the staff treat you?
  • How does the staff interact with the current residents? Do they seem to have a good relationship with them and know their names?
  • How do staff members treat each other?
  • Are residents chatting with one another during meals?
  • What organized activities are on the schedule? What activities do you notice taking place? Are they well-attended?
  • Are residents encouraged to attend activities?
  • How much interaction do residents have with the outside community?
Fees and Policies
  • Are you allowed to examine a contract? Does it clearly lay out all services, fees, and policies?
  • How much is the entrance fee and security deposit? Is the deposit refundable?
  • What is the monthly fee?
  • Is long-term care insurance accepted?
  • How does the assisted living facility bill for services?
  • What is the policy on late payments?
  • How are rate increases handled?
  • What if the resident runs out of money?
  • What are the rules for when residents must leave the facility? What are the most common reasons why residents leave?
  • How are refunds and transfers handled?