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Caregiving -- A Profession and a Way of Life

(ARA) - "Care" and "giver." It would be hard to imagine two more positive words. Together, they describe those who daily make a positive difference in the lives of nursing home residents nationwide. Caregivers are compassionate and hard working, dedicated to serving the needs of others -- and they are truly the heart and soul of nursing homes.

The Caregiving Team

Recently, nursing home and eldercare services leader Beverly Healthcare, as well as others in the nursing home business, have introduced concepts of care that provide residents more efficient, more personalized treatment. While nurses are the core members of a well-trained caregiving team, the team also includes certified nurses assistants (CNAs), physical, occupational and speech therapists, dietitians, activity coordinators, housekeeping staff, social workers and nursing home administrators.

A genuine concern for the well-being of others is the common thread that binds these diverse disciplines. Every day, team members must address the different personalities and health care needs of their residents, while anticipating and accommodating changing needs. They treat those in their care with dignity and respect, recognizing that each is an individual -- someone's spouse, parent, sibling, cousin or friend. The team must be sensitive to the needs of the resident's family, as well; in many cases, they are continuing care that has been previously provided by family members.

Whether a treatment plan involves rehabilitation, complex disease management, assistance with activities of daily living, or helping a resident safely cope with the effects of Alzheimer's disease, each member of the caregiving team plays an essential role. This dual emphasis on teamwork and personal involvement creates a supportive, caring environment that results in a positive outcome for residents.

Caregivers Wanted

According to the American Health Care Association (AHCA), approximately 1 million people use the services of some 17,000 nursing homes across the United States. And while state-of-the-art equipment and nursing homes are both desirable and necessary, nursing home administrators consider quality caregivers their most important investment. Unfortunately, our nation's caregivers pay a heavy price to pursue a profession that is too often undervalued. Lori Porter, CEO of the National Association of Geriatric Nursing Assistants (NAGNA), points out that caregivers' work is demanding both emotionally and physically, yet many take a second job or put in overtime hours to make ends meet. NAGNA is a non-profit organization working to ensure that the highest quality of care is provided to those living in nursing homes, which can be achieved by elevating the professional standing and performance of the caregivers.

In the face of these challenges, enrollment at nursing schools nationwide declined throughout the '90s, and the trend is continuing. According to the AHCA, a serious shortage of nurses is threatening the ability of nursing homes, and indeed the entire health care industry, to provide optimum levels of care. Numerous additional factors contribute to this staffing crisis:

* The current workforce of caregivers is nearing retirement. Currently, the average age of registered nurses in America is 45.

* Reduced government funding, combined with the appeal of administrative nursing positions in the corporate world, has made it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain hands-on caregivers.

* Baby boomers are aging in vast numbers -- age 85 and older is now our country's fastest-growing age group.

* Americans are living longer. It is estimated that two of every five adults will require nursing home care at least once in their lives.

Beverly Healthcare proactively recruits qualified caregivers, and is accredited to offer CNA training, as are local agencies such as the American Red Cross. If you would like information about locations of Beverly nursing homes in your area, see

For a free "Considering a Career in Long-Term Care" booklet, call (800) 628-8140. The pamphlet will help you select a career in long-term care, and provides information on each category of employment.

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