101 Careers in CounselingIn this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!

Though counselors are primarily trained to address mental health and personal concerns and needs, some counselors have branched out into related areas. Counselors who choose to work with the elderly in residential settings may wind up “wearing many hats” in their job. Some counselors are likely to work as day care coordinators in retirement centers.

Degree Required

A master’s degree in a counseling specialty area is optimal (e.g., rehabilitation counseling, geriatric counseling, and mental health counseling). Geriatric counseling or rehabilitation counseling may be the most appropriate areas to train in, though they will not be required.

Issues to Understand

The responsibilities of a day care coordinator will be different from those of a counselor. Day care coordinators are certainly concerned with the mood of the residents, though their role is not to provide counseling. They may arrange for counseling services or make a referral to the counselors or social workers providing the counseling. Additional responsibilities may involve scheduling exercise and activity classes, social outings, educational trips to museums and art galleries, concerts, and so on. The day care coordinator’s responsibilities will include arranging guest speakers on a variety of topics including professors from local colleges, religious leaders, local politicians, medical experts, lawyers, and so forth. Basically, this job is a type of “catch all” position with a broad range of responsibilities.

Best Aspects of the Job

The best part of the day care coordinator’s job may be in bringing services to the residents or in taking the residents out to services. Day care coordinators will be aware of the need to create productive time for a population who may have an excess of time on their hands. Creating a community where elderly residents can be challenged to make productive use of their minds and bodies, and enjoy the social activities other segments of society enjoy is likely a satisfying job. The day care coordinator may also be responsible for arranging volunteers to come into the retirement community. This may involve artists running workshops, writers reading their books or poems, and professionals bringing in dogs for animal-assisted therapy.

Challenging Aspects of the Job

Just as every job has its challenges, day care coordinators have their own. There will be both family members and fellow staff who see the day care coordinator’s job as trivial or even unnecessary. Some administrators may begin to question financial expenditures for “unnecessary” expenses (trips to art galleries, plays, etc.). Residents themselves will occasionally complain that you are not “giving us the things we like” and so forth. Day care coordinators will need to be resilient in the face of underappreciation. It is also a good idea to maintain close relationship with the residents and survey them for programming they would like so as to create a communication feedback loop. The more the day care coordinator can involve residents, the more support she or he is likely to have.

Occupational Outlook and Salary

A perusal of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (2010–2011) did not mention any categories for day care assistants. Such professionals are likely to go by different job titles such as “activities director” or something similar. Salaries are difficult to estimate although they depend on whether the retirement community is well funded and whether the position is full-time or part-time.


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