It takes a special breed of person to work with the elderly. Not only do elderly care workers need to posses medical knowledge to perform their job properly, they also need to have compassion. There are many facets of elderly care one could enter into, and while they are all rewarding in their own right, they each carry a level of responsibility not suitable for every person. It is a career that requires careful consideration.
The role of an elderly care worker is to provide a safe environment for patients while meeting their medical and emotional needs. Each patient will have a different plan of care designed specifically for her according to her current medical condition. The health care worker will utilise this plan to meet the patient's needs and assist her with her hygiene needs, nutritional needs and toileting needs. This plan will also provide safety information pertinent to the patient, such as whether or not she is mobile, how she is to be lifted and how many people it will take to lift her safely. It is the worker's responsibility to know this information and follow it as it is written to ensure the safety of the patient. The specific job description of the elderly care worker depends on the position he holds and the facility he works for.
Certified Nursing Assistants
This position is considered to be the low man on the totem pole when it comes to elderly care workers. It is a position that requires the least amount of education; generally a certificate can be obtained after taking a six-week course and passing a written and clinical exam. CNAs have the most direct contact with the elderly though, and provide all major personal care for the patient. This includes bathing, dressing, feeding, ambulating (helping the patient maintain mobility) and taking vital signs. They also report any changes in a patient's behaviour to the head nurse so that the patient may be evaluated and proper treatment administered. CNAs are usually employed in nursing homes, assisted living homes, or work for agencies that employ home health aids.
Licensed Practical Nurses
LPNs are a step up from CNAs and are usually who the CNA reports to. An LPN course generally takes one year to complete with a licensing test after educational requirements have been met. The job requirements for an LPN when working with the elderly include assessing any conditions they may have, changing dressings on wounds, caring for bedsores and in some states, administering medications. They report directly to the registered nurse.
The educational requirements for an RN vary depending on the type of degree you desire, and can take two to four years to achieve. When working with the elderly, the RN will administer the medications, administer intravenous fluids, discuss the patient's situation with the family members, monitor the patient's chart and remain in direct contact with the doctor, making changes to the care plan as needed. While they generally work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, RNs can also work with hospice patients.
Also known as recreational therapists, these elderly care workers generally work in nursing homes and coordinate events for the residents to help keep them active socially, mentally and physically. They plan events such as arts and crafts and bingo, arrange for animals to be brought in, and provide music and dancing. There are events planned throughout the day, as well as some evening events a few times during the month. Holidays are always a special and sometimes a difficult time for the elderly, and the activity directors will arrange for carolers to come and sing for the residents.
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