3 Assisted Living Career Fields
Working in an assisted living facility encompasses many career fields, which include medical aspects and careers that maintain or improve the quality of life for residents. If you have ever considered working in an assisted living facility, but are unsure which career field you want to choose, there are several options that are relevant to your occupational goals.
As a nutrition counselor, it is your job to assist both individual residents and the entire facility in making healthy food choices. Since many facilities have extensive dining options, you will likely work closely with cooks and other dining room staff to help formulate menus. Assisting the facility with their menu is more than determining what is healthy or unhealthy for residents, but also involves assembling dishes with dining staff that will balance health with taste.
Many people who live in assisted living facilities have chronic health problems or other dietary restrictions. Some common chronic conditions include diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. However, with the emergence of other dietary needs, you may need to help formulate more gluten-free options or help facilities develop menus that are inclusive of people who do not eat animal products, while still maintaining adequate nutrition.
Mental Health Professionals
Unfortunately, mental illness can be increasingly common throughout late adulthood. Some of the reasons include changes in independence, neuropsychiatric conditions, and the higher prevalence of bereavement in older populations. Not only are mental health professionals an invaluable asset to assisted living facilities, but mental health professionals with specialized training in gerontology can help better address concerns commonly seen in older adults. One major concern with older adults who have a mental illness is the appropriate use of psychiatric medications. Antidepressants and other classes of psychiatric medications are more likely to cause altered mental status and other adverse side effects in older populations.
More facilities are maintaining regular access to mental health professionals to help minimize or prevent the instance of depression and other mental illnesses in their residents. New residents may have some of the highest risk of developing depression because of sudden changes in their independence and the new environment. The transition from living a fully independent life to needing assistance can be traumatic. As a mental health professional working in an assisted living facility you may be required to do initial assessments on new residents and try to identify any signs of depression, even when they are not articulated by the resident. Early identification of depressive symptoms can help prevent a downward spiral of both mental and physical health.
Nurses at every stage of their career are invaluable to assisted living facilities. Certified nursing assistants (CNA) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) are plentiful in residential facilities because much of their job role requires direct interaction with residents. Depending on the type of assisted living facility, whether residents are mostly independent or need more ongoing help each day, CNAs and LPNs may help with any number of duties, such as helping residents adhere to their medication schedules and assisting with activities of daily living, such as feeding, bathing, and dressing.
Registered nurses (RN) and nurse practitioners (NP) often work as the liaison between residents and physicians, because their training allows them more responsibilities. For example, RNs are allowed to administer vaccinations and perform certain medical procedures. Generally, NPs are allowed to prescribe medications and diagnose medical conditions with some restrictions, which varies by state. Beyond the help with physical needs, many nurses are invaluable for their social and moral support to residents. Some residents may have little or no family or friends and value the interaction with people working at the facility.
Choosing a career path leading to assisted living employment is a rewarding choice. Not only are you helping residents with their physical needs, but enjoying your job can make the transition to a facility much easier on new residents.