Hatfield caregiver honored at statehouse

  • After receiving the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service, Hatfield caregiver Erika Olson helps with a baby in the audience at the Statehouse in Boston on Wednesday. M.J. Tidwell

  • Hatfield caregiver Erika Olson receives the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service at the Statehouse in Boston on Wednesday. M.J. Tidwell

Boston University Statehouse Program
Thursday, October 26, 2017

BOSTON — What began as a simple summer job has turned into a career of compassion and service for one Pioneer Valley resident.

Erika Olson, 27, of Hatfield, was honored with the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service at the Massachusetts Statehouse Wednesday, for her work as a personal care assistant over the last eight years.

The award recognizes the important work that PCAs perform on behalf of people with disabilities and elders and is given to a caregiver in each of the commonwealth’s five regions. Honorees were selected from some 45,000 PCAs who work through the MassHealth PCA Program.

Olson said at the ceremony that she is deeply honored to receive the award and that she appreciates the recognition of how much more a caregiver gives than just handing out medication.

“I think it takes a compassionate person, who respects someone else. You’re seeing someone in a very vulnerable state,” she said. “You come in and talk about their day, how they’re doing, the news. You become family.”

Olson was nominated by her PCA employer, Paul Vasconcellos of Amherst, for whom she has cared for the last eight years. Also a care coordinator for Baycare Health Partners, she continues to spend 10 hours a week with Vasconcellos even as he has entered hospice care.

“Erika demonstrates the kind of commitment that we hope all people will aspire to,” he said, according to a press release for the ceremony.

Named for a longtime disability-rights activist from Newton, the Paul Kahn Award is sponsored by the Massachusetts PCA Quality Home Care Workforce Council, 1199SEIU Health Care Workers East and Rewarding Work Resources.

Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, stopped by shortly before the ceremony to shake hands and congratulate the award recipients who, along with Olson, included Teresa Cramphorn of Salisbury, Milka Exantus of Dorchester, Caitlin Bukolsky of Shelburne Falls and Joanne Ventura of New Bedford.