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Careers Working with Dementia Patients

When people have dementia, their personal care needs and medical needs will change. This article explores careers that involve working with dementia patients at home, in medical offices or in residential facilities.

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Career Options for Working With Dementia Patients

Dementia is a medical condition that affects many people. It is commonly associated with memory loss, involuntary movements and uncharacteristic behavior. There are a number of healthcare professionals that work with patients with dementia to address the cause of their condition, their symptoms or specific needs they have as a result of their condition.

Job Title Median Salary Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides $22,170 (2016)* 40%
Medical and Health Services Managers $96,540 (2016)* 20%
Registered Nurses $68,450 (2016)* 15%
Psychiatrists $194,740 (2016)* 13%
Family and General Practitioners $190,490 (2016)* 16%
Neurologists $201,650 (Dec. 2017)** 13% (for physicians and surgeons, all other)
Psychologists $75,230 (2016)* 14%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

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Career Information for Working With Dementia Patients

Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides

Home health aides and personal care aides help meet the medical, physical and social needs of individuals who need assistance to live at home. Their duties can be varied and include tasks such as cooking, giving patients medication or taking clients to visit friends. These aides can play an important role by enabling dementia patients to remain at home for as long as possible. A high school diploma or GED is usually required. Certification is also required for aides employed by facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers are responsible for ensuring that quality healthcare is efficiently provided to patients in their facility or department. Although it is possible that these managers may oversee clinics or wards that focus on geriatric patients, including those with dementia, the medical and health services managers who serve as nursing home administrators will have the most direct role with dementia patients. They will be responsible for ensuring that staff are trained to meet the needs of their dementia patients and that resources are in place for their care. They need to have a bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant discipline, such as health management.

Registered Nurses

Nurses are medical professionals who help treat patients under the direction of a medical doctor. They check on patients, give medication, provide assistance with medical procedures and report patient concerns to doctors and other nurses. Some nurses opt to specialize as geriatric nurses and spend their careers working with elderly patients, which includes patients with dementia. They must earn an associate's or bachelor's degree or a diploma in nursing and have a valid nursing license.

Psychiatrists

As medical doctors, psychiatrists focus on treating patients with mental health issues. They are required to graduate from medical school, complete a residency, have a medical license and be board certified. Psychiatrists work with dementia patients to diagnose and treat some symptoms of the condition, such as depression. They can help address lifestyle or emotional changes that are related to dementia but that the patient is capable of controlling.

Family and General Practitioners

Family and general practitioners are often among the first medical professionals who may start the process of diagnosing a patient with dementia. Since they often provide medical care to the same patients for many years, they may pick up on early warning signs of dementia. Family and general practitioners can start the process of diagnosing patients and refer patients to specialists, such as psychiatrists and neurologists. They must have a medical degree, a medial license and complete internship and residency requirements to work as a doctor.

Neurologists

Neurologists must graduate from medical school, complete a residency and have a medical license. They specialize in the determining what conditions are affecting a person's brain and nervous system and providing treatment. When working with dementia patients, neurologists specifically focus on treating the nervous system conditions that are causing them to have symptoms that they can't control, such as paralysis.

Psychologists

Psychologists spend their careers focusing on human behavior and how the human brain works. Developmental psychologists, in particular, focus on studying conditions that affect people at different stages of development and may concentrate on issues affecting the elderly, such as dementia. Psychologists can also work with patients who are suffering from memory loss and help determine what specific type of dementia they have. Psychologists involved with diagnosing patients will need a doctoral degree and state license.

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