Gerontology: End of Life Care and Support Certificate

This certificate is designed to advance the knowledge and develop the skills of caregivers, aging services professionals and family members in supporting persons approaching the end of life.

The Need

The U.S. Administration on Aging has projected that there will be roughly 72 million older persons by the year 2030, which is almost twice as many as the population of older adults in 2007. One of the implications of the rise in the number of older adults is that there will be an increase in the number of persons to care for at the end of life. This creates a demand for trained professionals and family members to provide end of life care.

The demand for trained professionals and family members to provide supportive end of life care has also been increasing with the advent of the hospice movement, trends toward dying at home, and trends toward patient and family member involvement in the end of life process. End of Life education makes it possible to understand how to best support people dying at home and to enhance skills to provide quality end of life care at hospitals and care facilities, as well as at home.

Dying persons, family members and professionals can be involved in the end of life process by taking part in providing comfort care, specifying treatment wishes through advance planning, creating legacies for loved ones, organizing affairs, creating rituals, revisiting relationships, completing “final wishes,” planning celebrations of life, and attending to legal issues. Taking part in this process can bring a sense of control to the dying person and family members, and helps to make the dying process as comfortable as possible. In order to properly support dying persons, education in the end of life process is needed for both family and professionals.

Career Pathways

End of life specialists may work under a wide range of titles that continue to grow and transform as the changing nature of the aging population presents new challenges, and as facilities and programs adjust accordingly. The following represents a growing list of professions and roles relating to the end of life:

  • Chaplains and Spiritual Counselors
  • Funeral Directors
  • Insurance agents specializing in Life and Long Term Care Insurance
  • Financial Advisors
  • Guardians and Conservators
  • Paralegals and lawyers providing elder law services
  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Healthcare Aides
  • Resident Assistants in care facilities
  • Social Workers
  • Bereavement Counselors
  • Therapists working with massage, touch, art, music, pet, horticultural, environmental and other modalities
  • Hospice Volunteer Coordinators
  • Hospice Administrators
  • End of Life Instructors
  • End of Life Researchers

In addition to career options and career enhancement opportunities, students may also be interested in further gerontology and end of life educational opportunities. Through articulation agreements with Portland State University , Marylhurst University, Oregon State University, and other colleges and universities, students can transfer the majority of their credits toward bachelor programs. The exact number of transferable credits would depend on the restricted electives selected and the requirements of the program to which the student is transferring. Students could concentrate in aging – and in some cases earn a minor or certificate in Gerontology – within a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences in social sciences, business, community health, health education, fitness, and many other programs.

Students are advised to explore options and requirements with the receiving institution. Students completing the End of Life Care and Support Certificate might particularly be interested in continuing education in the following programs:

Certificate Courses

The courses in the End of Life Care and Support Certificate train students to:

  • Guide family members and dying persons through the end of life process, including social, psychological, medical, financial, legal, and spiritual issues related to care and support.
  • Assess and document the care and support needs and assets of the dying person, their family and social support network; communicate and collaborate with all related parties; and facilitate access to appropriate resources, while working with other professionals and with diverse stakeholders in a coordinated care and support plan, in hospice, long term care, and home environments.
  •  Apply best practices of person-centered and directed care and support, and adhere to professional and ethical standards in supporting the dying person and working effectively with all stakeholders, including legal, medical, financial, insurance, relevant government programs, and other professionals, as well as family and the dying person’s social support network.

For a list of the required courses for this certificate, please see the Gerontology catalog page.