Assisted Living Careers Offer Many Opportunities
By ROBERT A. DEFRANK
The field of nursing and assisted living has an abundance of openings for dedicated, qualified individuals of the right temperament to build a career in caring for area seniors.
Jamie Crow, executive director of the Elmhurst House of Friendship in Wheeling, said there are demands at all levels. She spoke about the need for cooks and servers, “because all of our residents go to the dining room for three meals a day, seven days a week.”
She said those who provide specialized services, such as licensed practical nurses, are an ongoing necessity.
“We always have the need for LPNs or resident assistants that work side-by-side with our nursing staff to provide care around the clock to our residents. Those are probably our biggest needs at this point,” she said, noting that the field of assisted living has a long history in the area.
“Assisted living is not a new concept. We’ve been here for 127 years,” she said, adding that many sites will provide specialized, individual training to complement the employee’s skills and experience.
“Whether individuals go to a culinary arts school, whether individuals go to further their education to become a licensed practical nurse, or whatever the case may be, we train all of our employees to meet our needs here.”
Crow said other things each facility and its employees must consider are the dietary needs of the residents.
Among the most important attributes of an employee are the individual’s temperament and ability to work and relate with others.
“You have to be a people person. You have to have the communication skills to be able to talk to our residents. You have to have empathy. You’re dealing with a population that is in their 80s and 90s, and so they can’t be afraid to communicate,” she said, stressing the need for flexibility.
“And be happy and positive. Those are my two prerequisites,” she said.
Crow added that at Elmhurst, all staff must be CPR-certified and have a food handler’s card.
“We dispense medication, so they’re very important in that respect, but registered nurses and LPNs also hold their own individual licenses from their licensing board,” she said. “Not only dispensing medication, but working with our residents, noticing any changes in their day-to-day. There’s a lot of visual, a lot of interpretation.”
She said this means it is of vital importance that employees are able to get to know residents, so to realize immediately when something is not right.
“We observe, we talk with them, we interact with them. There’s a lot that goes on in the care we give our residents. That is really important in what our day-to-day operations consist of,” she said, recalling times when residents are feeling upset or become ill.
“We have to be able to recognize all of those symptoms, if there’s something going on,” she said.
She also said staff often cross train in many elements, except for dispensing medicine, so everyone might cooperate.
“You’ve all got to be on the same page,” she said. “You have to be invested in your job, have a good work ethic.”
She added that with an aging population, openings for careers in the field continue to present themselves for a wide variety of service people. She pointed out her own master’s degree in social work.
“All assisted living (facilities) are growing. They always need support,” she said. “The Boomers are just now coming to assisted living, so there is the need.”