It’s May, and that means it’s graduation season. Newly-minted young professionals, diplomas freshly in hand, are striking out on their career adventures.
Many of them don’t consider a career in elder care. That’s not so surprising — as health care careers go, pediatric medicine, acute care, programmatic fitness and wellness may seem more interesting or exciting. But young professionals who fail to consider senior care from the get-go may be doing themselves a disservice.
Let’s examine four reasons why a career in retirement care might just be one of the better options for care providers and allied health professionals just embarking on their career journeys.
1. The supply of elder caregivers is too small, but the demand for care is peaking.
The earliest members of the post-war Baby Boom generation — the largest single generation in American history — have reached retirement. The youngest Baby Boomers reached age 50 three years ago. As we get into the early 2020s, the generation will achieve its peak retirement ratio (when more Baby Boomers are retired than are still working).
At the same time, the supply of retirement caregivers is painfully small. Even as for-profit and not-for-profit retirement care organizations race to build senior apartment and residential nursing capacity to hold the tidal wave of aging Boomers, the industry simply doesn’t have enough home health nurses, patient care assistants, physical/occupational/respiratory therapists, senior wellness and nutrition experts, geriatricians, etc., to care for them all.
"In elder care, though, we often care for patients for
years at a time. We get to know them well."
What does that mean for new grads entering the senior care field? You learned the answer in Econ 101: Until the market stabilizes, elder care providers are likely to command higher average wages and realize more attractive benefits than their counterparts in other health care niches.
2. A career in senior health care is rewarding in non-monetary ways.
Our elders can teach us so much. If, as they say, there’s nothing new under the sun, then remember that older generations have already lived what we’ve yet to experience.
Older people know how to handle success and failure in equal measure. They’ve known triumph and heartache. They’ve survived and learned — often the hard way — what’s important to worry about and what isn’t. They’ve know how to find happiness. And they know how to deal gracefully with sadness.
When we care for our elders, much of their wisdom gets passed along to us. Sometimes, they share their stories. Sometimes, we just learn from listening and observing. But, whatever the means, the wisdom we gain through our interactions with the aged gives us an esoteric leg up on our own lives.
3. Older people are thankful.
In many healthcare settings, compassion fatigue can be problematic. Younger adults in the hospital can often be difficult to deal with; many are unreasonable, highly demanding, or exude a sense of entitlement. As a result, many caregivers lose empathy. They burn out.
“I do see miracles and acts of compassion daily,” Anthony B., a Cincinnati ER nurse, wrote in a May 2017 Facebook post. “But we still have those frequent days that I say something mean about someone (whether staff or patient), judge someone for their complaint because it's the X number of times I've seen them for the same thing, or even think hurtful things after another verbal berating.”
“The environment can become toxic even with good people working there. The patients are at their most raw and without their filter. It's those times I need a break and I find myself struggling to be the person I strive to be,” he acknowledged.
That’s not to say that all younger patients are difficult or ungrateful.
But, as practitioners of senior care, we can tell you that many people do indeed mellow out as they age. Most lose their sense of self-importance. They become more narrowly focused on their immediate surroundings; they’re less concerned with their place in the larger world.
So, when we help an elder by moving a tray within reach, by taking a walk with them, by sitting down and lending an ear, they show their gratitude. Even the smallest gestures are met with smiles and humble thanks. We certainly don’t require their gratuity to do our jobs. But it sure does make us feel good.
4. We often develop meaningful care relationships with our residents.
In acute care, providers encounter their patients for brief periods of time, then those patients move on. In pediatric care, patients grow up and move on and we lose track of them. In primary care, we see our patients periodically, but our encounters with them are straightforward and businesslike.
In elder care, though, we often care for patients for years at a time. We get to know them well. We get to know their spouses, their children, their grandchildren and sometimes even their great-grandchildren.
In elder care, we develop care relationships that enrich and shape our own lives, which gives us deeper perspective on our place relative to the overall world. And that’s something new grads might consider when making their career decisions.
If you’re a new graduate looking for a healthcare career in or around Cincinnati, we need you.
We provide care for seniors, for people recovering from major illnesses or injuries, and for people who can’t easily leave their homes. We provide residential nursing care, memory care, home health services, Meals on Wheels delivery and more.
From our clinical providers, to our allied health professionals and support staffers, we have one goal: to help Tristate seniors continue, “Living well into the future.” And, if you have a passion for rendering person-centered, dignified care, we invite you to explore the opportunities that await you with Episcopal Retirement Services.
Click here to see our available career opportunities. We look forward to helping you start a rewarding career in elder care!