Nurturing Family Caregivers

Rhonda Montgomery, Helen Bader Endowed Chair of Applied Gerontology in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and Professor in the Department of Sociology, College of Letters & Science

Nurturing Family Caregivers

TCARE Navigator LLC is commercializing an innovative caregiver support system developed at UWM. TCARE (Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral) helps caregivers receive the support they need to help their aging and/or disabled family members. Businesses and agencies are drawn to TCARE by the prospect of impressive health care savings.

Assuming care for a loved one is challenging,” says UWM Professor Rhonda Montgomery. Often, the emotional strain of caregiving is harder than the physical tasks.

“As more care is required, roles and relationships change in ways that are very stressful,” says Montgomery, Helen Bader Endowed Chair in Applied Gerontology in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and professor in the Department of Sociology. Many caregivers don’t recognize the signs of burnout, deepening depression or the impact of caregiving on their own health.

TCARE is a system designed by Montgomery and her UWM team that provides care managers – specialists assisting family caregivers – with a step-by-step tool to tailor care plans. For example, a care manager and a caregiver husband meet face to face and, through TCARE’s Web-based protocol, they assess that caregiver’s needs and strengths. The resulting “map” might pinpoint the husband’s need for help in acquiring medical equipment, obtaining counseling or finding respite care. The care manager then identifies local resources that could provide him with specific assistance.

TCARE Navigator LLC licensed TCARE through the UWM Research Foundation as one of UWM’s recent startups. “The program has been used by state agencies and organizations for several years,” says Montgomery. “This new company is promoting TCARE to private insurers, accountable-care organizations, self-insured employers and U.S. government agencies.”

“TCARE is expected to offer significant savings associated with delaying placement of the patient in institutionalized care, as well as avoiding future health care costs for the caregiver,” says Norrie Daroga, chief executive officer of TCARE Navigator. “The system will deliver high value to our clients by easing the burdens experienced by caregivers, decreasing absenteeism in the workplace and ultimately lowering health care costs for all payers.”

Initially created for use with those caring for relatives with dementia, TCARE has been adapted for families of injured soldiers and the developmentally disabled, and its benefits have been well documented. Care managers overseeing caregiver clients 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.

Ultimately, those receiving care may benefit the most. “Our families are the best hope for sustained, quality and loving care,” says Montgomery.

The TCARE system has been developed and validated throughout the U.S. for the past 25 years. Now, through the startup company TCARE Navigator, this care management process will be available to help even more family caregivers receive the support they need. That assistance can help keep family members needing care in their homes.