Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16P The Contribution of Practice Skills In a Care Management Process for Family Caregivers of Older Adults

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Jeannine M. Rowe, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI
Rhonda J.V. Montgomery, PhD, Endowed Chair and Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Purpose: Recent advocacy for the provision of care management as a valuable service to support family caregivers of older adults reflects an underlying belief that social workers and other care managers possess the skills to carry out the activities. To date, limited research has been conducted that examined the influence of social work practice skills on the care management process or its outcomes. This is due in part to the fact that until recently, a care management protocol designed for family caregivers did not exist. Additionally, there has been little consensus regarding the skills needed to effectively carry out care management activities. An exploratory study was undertaken to examine the influence of practice skills on the care management process. In particular, I examined the relationship between care managers' levels of communication skills, supportive skills, and linking skills with their ability to effectively implement a new care management protocol. I also examined the extent to which the three practice skills were linked with caregivers' use of recommended services. A second goal of this study was to examine differences between social workers and other types of professionals in their abilities to create viable care plans and influence caregivers' utilization of services.

Methods: The study was linked to a parent study that employed a multisite randomized design, in which researchers examined the impact of the Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral ® Protocol (TCARE®) on caregiver outcomes. For this study, the sample included 21 care managers who used the TCARE® protocol to serve 113 family members. Care managers completed a pilot questionnaire that included an inventory of items to assess practice skills and questions pertaining to the education and degrees of participants. Data pertaining to care plans and service use were obtained from forms that were completed for each caregiver. Bivariate correlational analyses were used to test the association between the three types of practice skills and type of degree held by the care manager with their abilities to compose viable care plans. Multilevel modeling techniques were used to test the relationship between the three types of practice skills and degree held by the care manager with caregivers' levels of compliance with recommended services.

Findings: Results of the correlational analyses revealed a significant association between the three practice skills and the creation of viable care plans. Communication skills and age of the care manager were positively linked with utilization of services by caregivers. No association was found between the type of degree held by the care manager with composition of care plans and service use by caregivers.

Conclusions and implications: These findings provide initial insights concerning the influence of practice skills within care management for family caregivers of older adults. This information is particularly important for community service provider organizations. Understanding the link between practice skills that facilitate effective care management puts provider organizations in a better position to train and hire qualified care managers. Additional implications of these findings with regard to practice and education are discussed.