As the aging baby-boomer generation reaches retirement and beyond, more elder care specialists than ever will be needed over the coming years. Various options open to those interested in working with the elderly include careers in health, social and physical support services. Some of these fields require a minimum of training to get started, while others take a college degree and professional licensing just to reach entry level.
Aides and Attendants
Nurse’s aides and personal attendants provide one-on-one assistance to elders in nursing homes, hospitals and other types of care facilities. Some may also go to the client’s home and assist with daily living functions, helping seniors to bathe, cook meals, shop and carry out typical tasks that they are unable to manage on their own. These jobs typically require a certificate of training from a community college, high school or private school, but do not require a degree. Training material is available from a variety of sources, including NerdNurse — a website that sells downloadable, inexpensive, comprehensive training modules covering a wide variety of topics important to people training to become healthcare workers for the elderly or disabled.
Social workers who work in both public and private facilities can specialize in the needs of the elderly, assisting elderly patients and their families in finding necessary services such as sources of medical equipment, in-home care and hospice. Some social workers also provide mental counseling and support to help elderly people who are dealing with problems such as the loss of a loved one, a terminal illness or a move to a care facility. The average pay in 2015 for all social workers was over $42,000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Usually a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to become a social worker, though some may opt for a master’s degree or doctorate. Those workers who obtain advanced degrees tend to have more responsibility and generally make more money.
While physical therapists may work with patients of any age, some of them specialize in the care and treatment of elderly patients, treating mobility issues and helping to rehabilitate those with injuries, such as injuries caused by falls. Physical therapists who work with the elderly often work in nursing homes or hospitals, though they may also be employed in public or private clinics. Pay is generally good, with the 2015 median salary reported by the bureau to be over $76,000, but the requirements are strict, since all states require that physical therapists have a doctoral degree in physical therapy and be licensed by the state. The need for physical therapists is increasing rapidly, and this field is expected to grow rapidly in the foreseeable future.
Recreational therapy utilizes a combination of activities and games to promote the participants’ physical and mental well-being. Recreational therapists who work with the elderly generally work for nursing homes, rehabilitation centers or community facilities for seniors. Workers must have a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy and are usually also required to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation. According to the bureau, the median pay in this career was almost $40,000 per year in 2015.