UMASS to Create a Set of Uniform Standards for Direct Care Workers
WORCESTER – Massachusetts’ workforce is set to enter retirement, and as its members age further, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, along with several community colleges, are gearing up to make sure they are well cared for.
UMass Medical School and UMass Dartmouth are joining with six Massachusetts community colleges to create a set of uniform standards – and educational benchmarks – for personal care attendants, home health aides and other workers in an industry aimed at helping others to live their lives the best they can, in their own homes.
More than 1 million Massachusetts workers are age 55 and over, according to Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago. That’s one-third of the state’s workforce set to retire.
In addition to a reduction in available Baby Boom era workers, it also means more people retiring in a state that allows people who require assistance to remain at home if they so choose.
A 2013 UMass Donahue Institute study of population growth in Massachusetts from 2010 to 2030 notes, that when factoring in Baby Boomers and the ‘Millennial Bump,’ the state is about to see two increases in residents over age 65.
The first wave is already reality, meaning between 14 to 17 percent of the state is in that age group, the report notes. By 2030, the over-65 population will represent 21 percent of the state, the report further states.
These factors figure into why a larger personal care workforce is a priority, Santiago said. But there is a flip-side to the equation, too: The care workers themselves.
The state is also experiencing a 10-year decline in youths attending college, Santiago noted.
Personal care could be a variety of services, to food shopping and meal preparation to assistance with bathing or taking medications. It is an industry historically underpaid and under-educated, according to the collective of public college leaders who met at the UMass Medical School’s Shrewsbury Campus on Monday to discuss the new program.
Representatives from Bristol, Greenfield, Northern Essex, MassBay, Middlesex and Quinsigamond community colleges shared similar stories of people who want to enter the assistance and healthcare fields, but who do not necessarily want to become doctors and nurses. The issues they face, however, include becoming trapped in a low-paying job from which there is no upward movement.