Long term care facilities provide residential care for people with disabilities and elderly individuals who cannot care for themselves. A long-term care facility (LTCF) can describe anything from a person’s home to a medical center. LTCFs can take many different forms, but most of them have a residential component and involves patient interactions that last for months or years. These facilities usually feature an environment that is designed around the needs of the patient and is conducive to their ongoing care. With millions of people currently using facilities designed for long-term care, there are plenty of different professional opportunities in the industry.
Skilled Nursing Homes
Nursing homes are the first thing many people think of when they consider long-term care. These facilities often maintain staff presence and on-call medical professionals 24 hours a day to address emergencies. Facilities range significantly in size, services, and amenities, so clients often have many options and alternatives to consider. Physical rehabilitation and other types of therapies are often available at skilled nursing homes. These homes also serve people with limited or temporary needs, like those who need several months to recover from a serious injury or illness.
Residential Assisted Living
Compared to nursing homes, clients of an assisted living facility often have more independence and flexibility in their level of care. In most cases, each person has their own unit, similar to an apartment or hotel, and access to other common spaces around the site, according to the National Institute on Aging. Assisted living centers can offer a wide range of services just like nursing homes, including housekeeping, security, and daily meal service.
In-Home Care Facilities
Many aging adults choose to stay in their home and modify it to suit their changing abilities and needs. Due to the expensive nature of long-term care, friends and family members often serve an integral role in domestic care facilities. Both caregivers and receivers need to communicate and work together to create a safe, comfortable, and effective environment for the necessary level of care. Moving appliances and adjusting railings, stairs, and other obstacles can make daily life much easier. Many seniors also pursue in-home assisted living with a professional nurse or caregiver who visits on a regular basis.
Careers in Long-Term Care
Doctors and nurses are always an essential component of patient care, especially for aging adults, but there are also many other career opportunities in this industry. The increasing demand for assisted living services also fuels the need for qualified management, administrative and support professionals. There are also entrepreneurial opportunities for those who want to focus on assisting in-home patients who require assistance with daily living or other specialized support. Students interested in a career related to LTCFs should consider interning in a facility to get practical experience and find specific roles that appeal to them.
Registered nurses provide skilled nursing care to residents of long-term care facilities. Their daily duties typically include providing wound care for patients with ulcers, bed sores or ports. They also provide intravenous therapy for medication or nutritional purposes. Registered nurses who work in a long-term care facility may also monitor the vital signs of residents, making sure that they are alert, aware of time and place and able to breathe. A registered nurse may also supervise the nurses’ aides who provide more of the hands-on assistance to the residents.
Long term care facilities employ many nurses’ aides. A certified nurses’ aide performs tasks such as bathing residents, helping a resident get dressed and assisting residents with the use of a commode or toilet. Nurses’ aides help with repositioning bed-ridden residents so they are at a lower risk of getting bed or pressure sores. A nurses’ aide may help with meal times, feeding residents who are unable to feed themselves. Some of the other activities nurses’ aides help residents with include brushing their teeth or cleaning their dentures, getting dressed, ambulation and accessing items on a shelf or in a drawer.
In long term care facilities, social workers respond to each client’s unique needs. For example, a resident of a long-term care center may have a mental health disorder. If they develop a mental health emergency related to their disorder, the social worker would take action in order to ensure that the resident gets the specialty care they need. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers also address an individual client’s needs. That might include making sure the resident has clothing, leisure activities and access to methods of communicating with their friends or family outside of the facility.
A physical therapist is another career for a person who would like to work in a long-term care facility. These professionals help people with disabilities to move comfortably. They also help elderly people who have fallen and injured themselves. Such people may need help with stability and balance. The physical therapist teaches exercises on how to increase strength and balance, which could reduce a person’s risk of another fall or injury. A person who has recently had a stroke would also benefit from physical therapy, especially if they experienced any paralysis as a result of their medical event. Physical therapists also help long-term care facilities create safe environments based on the residents’ need for assistive devices, such as walkers and wheelchairs.
A speech pathologist may also consider a career in a long-term care facility. People with disabilities who reside in these facilities may need help with their ability to communicate with other residents and the staff. A person who has had a stroke may need help regaining their ability to talk. Speech pathologists also help with dysphagia, which is difficulty with swallowing. This is a common complication of a stroke. People with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other progressive disorders may also develop difficulty with swallowing. They would benefit from the treatment of a speech pathologist.
Even though they take many different forms, all LTCFs feature people in need of special care and people who are providing that care. The services long-term care facilities provide are essential to the health and basic well-being of their clients, and a growing senior population means that they will be even more important in the years ahead.