A UMass Lowell researcher has been awarded a $2.48 million grant to develop advances in safety for home care aides and clients that will keep pace with an aging population, advances in technology and other factors that are rapidly changing the field.
The field of home care includes the delivery of health care at home and the provision of support services to people over age 65 and those with disabilities so they may stay in their homes rather than entering a nursing home, said Prof. Margaret Quinn, who leads the UMass Lowell Safe Home Care Project and received the grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The new grant will allow the Safe Home Care team of faculty, students and staff to take on the latest challenges facing home care aides and clients, building on 15 years of research in partnership with industry, government and community groups across Massachusetts and the U.S.
Those challenges include an aging population - the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to reach 78 million in the next 15 years, exceeding those 18 years old and younger, according to the U.S. Census Bureau - that translates into more people facing multiple chronic illnesses, including cancer, dementia, diabetes and lung and heart disease. Managing these conditions requires increasing complex medical and assistive care, further complicated if a client also has limited mobility, such as from arthritis or obesity, Quinn said, adding that most Americans want to receive care at home.
Assisted by advances in technology, health care is shifting to the home environment and home care aides' jobs now resemble those of counterparts in nursing homes and as new safety challenges arise, providers are seeking innovative ways to keep up.
These factors are exacerbating an already critical shortage of workers in this field, making it difficult to recruit and retain aides, and contributing to high workforce-development costs.
Our research shows that home care aides report a high level of job satisfaction and get great reward from helping people age in place in their homes with dignity. Yet we've also found a number of safety hazards that make the job conditions challenging for aides. If an aide gets hurt she can lose time from work and can't always make it back for the next visit; this is hard on the aide and on the client and their families. It's also hard on home care agency employers, who are increasingly faced with employee shortages and turnover." Margaret Quinn, professor of public health in UMass Lowell's Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences
Improving health and safety has been shown to be a significant factor in workforce recruitment and retention in other areas of the health-care industry, according to Quinn. The latest research by the Safe Home Care Project is looking at safety for aides and the clients they serve. Related Stories
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