Dr. Rhonda Montgomery Awarded Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award

Rhonda Montgomery receives award from Rosalynn Carter.

The nation's highest honor given in the caregiving field was awarded October 20 to Rhonda Montgomery, the Helen Bader Endowed Chair in Applied Gerontology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. It is a joint award with the state of Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, who partnered with UWM.

The Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award recognizes leaders who implement community-researcher partnerships that help move evidence-based caregiver support programs out of the realm of research and to the front lines. At the award ceremony at Georgia Southwestern State University, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, whose commitment to improving caregiver support led her to found the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at the university, presented the titular award, a cash award of $20,000 and a statue executed by renowned sculptor Frank Eliscu, best known as the designer of the Heisman trophy. The statue will be displayed throughout Washington, including the governor's office, before coming to UWM, where it will be on display in the Office of Applied Gerontolgy.

Montgomery and her colleagues designed a protocol in 2007 to ease the burden of people caring for relatives. The protocol – Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral, or TCARE® -- initially was created to guide care managers who work with family members caring for relatives with dementia. Now it appears that that application is just the beginning.

Recently, TCARE® was adapted to use with family members who care for injured soldiers. The Helen Bader School of Social Welfare is working with U.S. Army Soldier Family Assistance Centers, located on 27 bases in the United States and Europe. A pilot study began in 2010 in which HBSSW is training care managers to use TCARE® at six such centers in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Washington.

In addition, Montgomery and her team are working with Georgia's Department of Aging to bring TCARE® to care managers who provide services to people caregiving for the developmentally disabled.

"Caregiving for a relative is often stressful and can lead to depression," says Montgomery. "And sometimes those of us who do it, simply cannot continue without physical and emotional support. But support services and resources for caregivers are not uniformly beneficial."

The strain of caregiving, she notes, often is related more to the emotional aspects than the actual care tasks. "Each person who becomes a caregiver undergoes a systematic process of identity change as they take on more caregiving responsibilities," she says. "As their caregiving role grows, their relationship with their relative changes in ways that are uncomfortable." The idea of training professionals who work with caregivers came to Montgomery years ago, when she grew alarmed at the general lack of training for this group nationwide.

TCARE® provides care managers with a step-by-step tool to tailor care plans for caregivers. Recent findings from a two-year, multi-site randomized control study concluded that TCARE® impacts both care managers and caregivers. Care managers who used TCARE® reported feeling better about the services they provided, more professional, and more hopeful. Caregivers reported increased positive feelings about caregiving, lower levels of stress and depression, and a diminished likelihood of moving the cared-for person out of the home.

The development of TCARE® has been funded by grants from the Helen Bader Foundation, the National Alzheimer's Association, the Jacob and Valerie Langeloth Foundation and contracts with the states of Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington.

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