When people name traditional careers, geriatric care likely doesn’t enter the conversation. Even though it might not have been the first job you thought about, it’s one of the fastest-growing career fields. Anyone interested in interpersonal job positions should read about pursuing a career in geriatric care.
Even if you already graduated from college or never pursued higher education, there’s a spot waiting for you in the world of eldercare.
Check out a few different career paths to consider and learn how to start your new journey today. You’ll find inspiration and joy in assisting patients and working with team members.
1. Identify Your Motivation
Before you take any steps forward, identify your motivation. What made you consider eldercare careers? Many people think about it after someone they know needs assistance or long-term care. Aging isn’t something people normally think about, but it’s critical to provide aid to those who can no longer live independently.
Perhaps a family member suffered from a stroke and needed in-house care around the clock. Maybe you helped your parents move into a retirement community recently. You could also have a heart that beats to help others.
Whatever motivates you will chart your way forward. Use it to narrow down which patients you’d like to work with or where you’d prefer to fit in the industry. There is an abundance of roles to choose from, so explore any motivations that make you happy or lead to positions that inspire you.
2. Browse Entry-Level Jobs
Although many geriatric care positions require an advanced degree, you can also browse entry-level jobs that don’t need experience. Some are open to people with a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certification. These jobs will give you a feel for the role and what it’s like working in that field.
Home health aides often start with just their high school education and climb up the career ladder within their company or location. You could also work as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) after completing a local community college certification course.
People also get their start as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA), which doesn’t require any training. You’ll assist patients with their daily activities and monitor basic medical statuses like blood pressure or wound recovery. Entry-level positions pay an average of $12.92 per hour, but that can increase with bigger employers.
Your job opportunities will depend on what’s available where you live and what different employers expect from new team members.
3. Consider Higher Education
Are you heading off to college or thinking about going back? You can always consider higher education to pursue a career in geriatric care.
Research degree options like:
- Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.
- Masters in Geriatric Care management.
- Doctor of Medicine (Geriatric Specialty).
Employers increasingly want team members with advanced nursing degrees.
Studies show that people with advanced BSNs reduce the length of stay and risk of complications in patients within care facilities. It could open opportunities to help more people by doing what you love, like being a clinical nurse supervisor.
4. Volunteer to Meet Employers
People who want to know how to work in geriatrics have a unique career advantage — they can volunteer before applying for jobs. Help out at local living facilities or hospitals that you’d’ consider for employment. If they accept your application, you’ll experience two significant benefits.
First, you’ll learn how to prevent common safety risks. Even with an education, people with no field experience sometimes overlook things like bunched-up rugs or out-of-reach call buttons in bedrooms. That experience could save lives and prevent injuries after becoming a full-time employee.
Second, you’ll meet employers before agreeing to employment. See if you feel part of the team at a hospital or hospice care facility. If the management style doesn’t work for you, there’s always the option to leave without risking your income, retirement funding, and health insurance.
5. Complete Necessary Certifications
Certifications are always helpful when you want to pursue a new career. A few senior care certifications will make you a more competitive candidate for a wider variety of jobs. You’ll know which ones to take once you decide which position you’d like to try and how much you can budget for this form of secondary education.
While you’re still thinking about possible career paths, compare senior care certifications that your state might require, such as:
- Caregiver certification ($50-$79).
- Home health aide (HHA) license ($25-$800).
- CNA training ($1,200-$4,500).
If you already have some nursing experience, you can apply for other voluntary Geriatrics certifications. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) provides certifications for certified nurses who want to work in adult-gerontology acute care or become specialists.
You may also want to become a geriatric pharmacist. A certification will put you ahead of the competition, and you can begin your career much faster and easier. Nearly every older adult needs a pharmacist to fill their prescriptions, which can be your integral role in the senior care world.
As a pharmacist, you’ll work with patients in many settings, such as assisted living, skilled nursing, and hospice care facilities. You’ll explain how and when to take their medications, monitor their health with routine tests, and answer patient questions.
It’s a great way to get involved with senior care if you’re interested in science and chemistry but don’t want to work in the nursing field. You’ll obtain this certification when you complete a pharmacy degree and pass the Board of Pharmacy Specialities exam.
6. Think About At-Home Care
Advancements in technology and science increase human life spans, so more senior citizens need long-term at-home care. It’s why geriatric health care workers have become a prominent business, especially for patients who can’t move into a facility.
You can change lives by driving to patients’ homes and providing care like routine bathing or wound cleaning. They may need to recover from surgery or require assistance with moving around their house. Your job may require nursing experience so you can change catheters or monitor medication.
If you don’t have nursing experience, you can provide care in other ways. Retirement communities need public transportation drivers to get around town when they can’t drive anymore. You might visit different patients and help with laundry or do their shopping.
People who love to work with their hands can modify homes and make it easier for older people to get around. You could install wheelchair ramps to front porches or grab bars in showers.
Retirement neighborhoods also need people to lead weekly programs. Guide seniors through pool workouts, game nights, or potluck dinners. Socialization is a critical way to reduce the development of dementia, possibly even preventing it in some senior citizens.
7. Build an Event Portfolio
If you’re interested in hosting events for people in nursing homes or retirement communities, begin building your portfolio. Volunteer at other places in town and post about your participation online. Your social media accounts can be your secondary portfolio, demonstrating the size and quality of events you lead or assist.
Retirement facilities always need program directors and coordinators. During interviews, you can point to different social media posts and explain the ideas you could bring to their residents. Pitch ideas like knitting fundraisers, in-house costume contests, or employee award programs you spearheaded.
Listing experience on your resume is necessary for any career, but event portfolios could jumpstart your geriatric care career with visual examples of what you’d bring to a facility’s team. Events like these boost employee morale and make life more enjoyable for residents, but sometimes they get lost in the rush of daily care. Your experience may be just what a facility needs to make residents’ lives fun.
8. Research Different States
The national retiree count increases each year, so states offer incentives to draw people to that career field. South Carolina grants student loan forgiveness to doctors who practice geriatric medicine for a minimum of five years. Utah does the same thing, clarifying that qualifying applicants should fit its eligibility definition, opening the door for multiple geriatric care positions.
Look into your state’s laws and programs to see if you could get debt forgiveness as well. It could make higher education possible and get you started in your new career. After you get your degree or start looking for jobs, make sure to work in underserved communities or nonprofit facilities. They need the most help and are often the only places you can work to qualify for debt relief.
9. Develop the Right Skills
Mental health problems affect people of all ages. People in assisted living facilities and retirement communities deal with depression and loneliness if they don’t have anyone to visit them. They might have heightened anxiety after moving into a new environment or dealing with daily life and memory loss.
You should develop the right skills for careers with the elderly. Geriatric psychiatrists need more understanding and compassion than most other positions, so they volunteer with people in need. You’ll quickly develop these skills and gain experiences you can reflect on during interviews.
Communication skills are also necessary when working with people. If you become a psychiatrist, you’ll work with patients on mental crises like:
- Intense grief.
- Financial stress.
- Fear relating to diagnoses.
You’ll also need to communicate with staff and management teams about patients under your care. Volunteer or other job experiences could teach you how to maintain a positive attitude in challenging situations. Geriatric care patients sometimes have difficulty coping with their new living situation or have extreme mood swings due to health issues.
Staying positive makes you a vital team member and reliable residential resource in any role. As your positivity grows, so will your patience. You’ll need these skills to work with older people struggling with issues like hearing or vision loss in addition to any mood or socialization challenges.
10. Check-in With Yourself
Many people want to begin eldercare careers because they’re rewarding. Helping people who can’t help themselves and making their lives better creates a higher purpose, but it’s also a demanding job. You might deal with the loss of a patient you’ve grown close to or feel burned out after weeks of tending to angry or upset residents.
Before beginning a new job, learn how to check in with yourself and maintain your mental health. Burnout will sap your energy and joy, which are two things that challenged you to begin a new career in the first place. Every day, ask yourself if you feel fulfilled by your work or if you pushed yourself too hard.
When you notice burnout beginning to steal your sleep or happiness, indulge in self-care habits. These routines help your mental health even when you’re not burned out, so explore what makes you happy. Relax while knitting by the TV or reading a book. You could exercise more often to relieve stress or learn how to bake new recipes.
Self-care habits ease the stress that builds up in any job, but they’ll also help you greet your patients with a calm spirit during your next shift. Residents can sense when their caretakers don’t want to be there or don’t want to listen to them. They reciprocate your energy, so begin every day with the best possible mindset.
As you find your place in the senior care world, remember to check in with yourself. You’ll prevent or take care of burnout and get more joy from the career you worked so hard for.
Review Elder Care Careers
Now that you know how to work in geriatrics review all your options for careers with the elderly. You could start your new nursing profession, personal care, or even program management. It all depends on which skills you develop, what you can add to your nursing resume, and what work makes you happy.
If you’re still unsure what you might do, don’t be afraid to volunteer. Positions are often short term and let you try various roles. You’ll learn what you love to do and what would make the best lifelong career.