Massachusetts Unique Approach To An Aging Population

home health curriculum

Direct care workers in Massachusetts are being offered a new path to career success thanks to the collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, and six community colleges in the state who have recognized the need for a uniform statewide curriculum and how it would benefit both home health aides and patients.

Direct care workers must deal with an assortment of mental health issues such as Alzheimer’s dementia, psychiatric conditions, and neurological disorders. There is a current lack of consistency in this area as well, and the new collaborative effort is expected to address this critical issue with a standardized curriculum in mental health training for home health aides.

The proposed uniformity in the curriculum will include all the essential core elements of direct care, but also create layers of courses (referred to as “stackables”) to augment the career options available to home health aides. A worker’s education could potentially start with a certificate course in basic assistance, after which they could proceed on to more lucrative careers in nursing and medicine if they so choose.

Every patient’s needs and level of care vary, but there is a surprising lack of standardization in the field of direct care. Personal care can simply involve preparing meals for a patient, a task which requires no specific training – an entry-level position for care providers. Certified courses such as CNA (certified nurses assistant) are riddled with inconsistent training and lack of uniformity in curriculum among the public colleges in the state.

Upon completion of this curriculum overhaul, a standard curriculum will be followed at all public schools in Massachusetts teaching direct care aides. In addition to benefiting health workers, patients can rest assured that their care provider is properly trained in most basic procedures such as lifting technique and proper hand washing.

The unified curriculum will allow a young worker to obtain an initial certification, potentially go on to get an associate’s degree at another public college, and then perhaps enter a four-year degree program in the medical field. This initiative will permit a healthcare worker to move up through the ranks of healthcare providers from the ground level of most basic patient care, and allow them to push forward faster and more consistently.

Understanding that there is a language barrier in the population of immigrants who speak limited or no English (constituting both patients and potential workers), the new curriculum will be available in all the major languages spoken in the United States – English, Portuguese, Haitian-Creole, and Spanish, thus connecting patients with attendants who speak the same tongue and providing job opportunities to minority groups and immigrants.

The project is a proactive approach to training direct care workers in anticipation of the need to care for an aging population, preferably in their homes rather than retirement facilities. The population of Massachusetts is set to expand in the coming decades, with the over-65 age group estimated to comprise more than 20 percent of the total population by the year 2030.

Project leaders are optimistic that this re-vamped curriculum will yield positive results in the near future, due to the accelerated pace of development.

Ariel Jacoby
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