As we all know, Americans are living longer than ever and often need support on a short or long-term basis as they age. Long term care and short term rehab offer plenty of growth careers, with new jobs being created all the time. These positions also give compassionate individuals a chance to make a difference in the lives of seniors and folks with disabilities or chronic illness and their families. Medical providers and professional caregivers help seniors and others stay happy, productive and comfortable in short-term rehab or long-term care.
Why Consider a Profession Working with the Elderly?
Working with seniors and patients with disabilities is one of the most rewarding fields you can choose. It involves working with patients, their families and other healthcare and wellness team members. If you are a “people person” with a compassionate heart and patience, it’s an ideal career path. Geriatrics also offers unprecedented job opportunities with availability in virtually every community in the U.S. and a range of training and education requirements, from a high school degree to graduate-level work.
What Are Important Jobs at Rehab and Long-Term Care Facilities?
At the heart of any skilled nursing, rehab or long-term care facility is a team of caring, competent individuals, from the nursing staff to therapists to administration. Here are some of the key players who work to provide the best care for both elderly patients and patients of all ages with disabilities and chronic illness:
- Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Registered Nurses (RNs) play a vital role in both long term care and short term rehab, covering everything from medication administration to wound care. They are an important liaison between patients and doctors and patients and families and play a key role in ensuring quality care and safety.
- Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs): Another role at the heart of any skilled nursing facility, CNAs feed, bathe and dress patients, take vital signs, serve meals and help keep rooms clean, and keep tabs on patients’ well-being.
- Physical therapists help patients regain strength and mobility after an illness, surgery or injury. They develop therapy plans to get seniors moving again and help them on the path to restored health.
- Occupational therapists are focused on function and well-being. They help residents regain daily living skills like feeding, dressing, bathing and toileting.
- Speech therapists work on everything from cognition to language to swallowing, helping restore the ability to communicate after a stroke or other medical event or working with patients with dementia. They provide aphasia therapy for patients who are struggling to find the words to communicate and apraxia therapy for patients who can’t make the muscles of their mouths work as they should. Speech therapists also provide swallowing therapy for patients who are struggling to swallow after trauma, surgery or stroke.
- A geriatric social worker focuses on mental and emotional health along with maintaining dignity and independence. Social workers are often a key liaison with families, helping to plan for patients’ continued recovery at home or in a long-term care facility. They’re a key point of contact with families, they excel at fielding questions and finding solutions.
- A geriatric care manager/administrator handles many of the non-medical needs of seniors in rehab and long-term care facilities, from finance and hiring to planning activities and working with families. Administrators are another essential point of contact with families and the community.
What Kind of Person is the Best Fit for Working with the Elderly?
Great caregivers come in a range of packages. We have excellent caregivers who are young and old, male and female. However, good caregivers do tend to have certain qualities that stand out. A study in the journal Psychology and Aging offered some insight into qualities that make good caregivers. If you have all or most of these characteristics, a career working with the elderly may be for you:
- High energy
- Positive outlook
- Conscientious approach
- Problem-solving mindset
Working With the Elderly: Challenges and Rewards
Working with the elderly isn’t for everyone. It requires a lot of patience, flexibility and an ability to deal with situations that are tough and unpleasant. But it’s also one of the most rewarding paths you can take in your career and a chance to make a real difference in people’s lives.
Some of the challenges of working with seniors include:
- Dealing with dementia. The confusion and behavior patterns that come with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia can be challenging to deal with and require training and experience, but there are ways to help dementia patients have a greater quality of life.
- Communication and physical challenges often lead to frustration and anger, and it’s sometimes directed at providers and caregivers. A thick skin and an ability to see the bigger picture are key.
- Handling residents’ personal care needs from bathing and dressing to toileting can be tiring and a little overwhelming at first, but with the right training and a positive attitude, professionals can overcome any initial nerves.
Ask anyone who works with the elderly and they’ll confirm that even with its challenges, it’s one of the most rewarding professions you can choose. Some of those rewards include:
- Working with the elderly gives you a chance to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families every day.
- You are one of the important factors in helping seniors move toward independence and improved quality of life.
- As a medical or non-medical professional, your interactions are often the highlight of a patient’s day.
- Seniors are often smart, funny and delightful; they offer a wealth of knowledge and great stories if you take time to listen.
How Can I Get Started Working With the Elderly?
It’s never too late to get started on a career working with the elderly, whether you’re a high school student looking for a career path or an adult looking for a career change with growth potential. For nursing and administrative positions, there are wonderful programs available at area community colleges. If you already have training, job openings abound. With its nationally recognized hospital and noted rehab and long-term care facilities, Winchester is a top location for professionals looking to work with the elderly or patients with disabilities or chronic illness. At Evergreen Health and Rehab, we experience the rewards of working with seniors and others every single day and collaborating with families to get patients what they need. Our employees have the added benefit of working with a wonderful, supportive team. For more information on opportunities at Evergreen, click here.