Saturday, May 28, 2011

Advice for New Case Managers

Though I wrote this post a couple of years ago about how advice may have not helped me when I started at Empoder, I changed my mind. I do have advice. Maybe it won't make much sense the first day or week, but at the end, I think knowing this early on helps:

Initially sit in as many appointments between clients and different social workers/case managers in your agency as possible. Each case manager and dynamic may teach you something.

Connect with the client's providers to learn more about the client, coordinate his service plan, and find out what services and (this one's sometimes my favorite) goods he's getting from another agency. Particularly relevant for clients who you'll work with more intensively or clients who ask for a lot of assistance.

Get into the habit of staying organized early. As organized as possible. File papers right away. Trust me.

If you must have post it notes or handwritten notes for a short time, and these should be sparse, date them. Date them all. It may be helpful to have a notebook to keep info in one place.

If you're not able to help a client with an item (like a dresser) always give another option. Like offering to budget with her to save money to get one or refer her to a resource that may help.

Make sure you're able to read the doctor's handwriting (on prescription) before you leave her office.

Find support in a coworker or professional in your agency or field. If you're unable to find support this way, be open to seeing a therapist. This gig is difficult enough with support.

Please feel free to share your suggestions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Refocusing Speaker Also Needed

Workshop at Empoder. 45 minutes in. The speaker still has quite a bit to go through in her presentation about legal rights to do with immigration and a client rises his hand and starts going into a very detailed and specific question. The kind that has an answer that would really only be relevant to him. I speak up after the question goes into minute 3 of explanation and say: "I'm so sorry to interrupt but we have a lot to cover and I'm sure the speaker could answer individual questions later." Speaker speaks up and says "No, it's OK" and nods for guest to continue. Aaaaah, I'm trying to help you here speaker! And the rest of us who want to get all the information you were planning to share with us before allotted time is up...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let's Pace this Collaboration

I'm not going to get it all done in a few meetings. Surprise! Yet it took me a long while to truly accept this. I won't be able to resolve 5 issues (may no be able to resolve one if it's complex) a client is dealing with in two sessions.

Some issues are straightforward. People just need help filling out redetermination forms for food stamps. Easy. A referral for a dentist in your neighborhood? OK, well you have Medicaid, so yes, it may take time but we could find a few dentist options. Yet some situations need more than one session to solve. A client gets behind on rent again due to money mismanagement. A client doesn't follow through on referrals yet comes back and says she still needs help. There's a larger issue here and it relates to the client's behavior and choices.

It's unlikely that after decades and decades of habits and lifestyle a client's behavior will change immensely thus guiding us to collaborate smoothly, at the end each of us skipping along on her merry way.

How can I expect people to change their lifestyle quickly when I see how in myself and people close to me that this is difficult to do? This bearing in mind that I and many of my loved ones grew up in a stable household and supportive environment.

Client's established behavior is not the only reason issues take time to resolve. Bureaucracy is part of it. Lack of resources, like when a client asks me about a legal matter but his income is just above the limit for free legal advice. Providers may not be reliable. It's tough being the mediating party between the client and a targeted service.

Not to mention also that clients may not necessarily come to a case manager with one issue. Three or four is not uncommon and each may be related to the other one in some way. Untangling each and working with it independently may be challenging as well. Like, perhaps if a client received mental health services other issues would be easier to deal with. It may not always be quite that simple but sometimes tackling one overarching issue paves the way for dealing with other challenges.

Pacing is crucial when you have a caseload of 40-50 people. Even back when I had a caseload of 30 people I would be quick to schedule a follow up appointment in a week's time even when an issue could wait. I prioritize much better now which gives me a bit more space to breathe. I also continue being better in encouraging clients to try advocating for themselves (perhaps with some coaching) before I step in.

Pacing is something I need to keep working on. I think I need to start thinking realistically about what I may accomplish in a week. There's a set amount of time to work with and typically a few surprises (in varying shades of crises) that come up as well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Financial Crisis Readings

In my search for some light reading I started researching information about USA's financial crisis. Though I stay pretty updated with what's happening now I wanted to understand its roots better.

As a side note, I strongly believe all case managers and social workers should have a fundamental understanding of economics. Frankly, it benefits us all to understand it as well as causes of financial crisis in educating ourselves on viable solutions.

During my search I came across this video:

Crisis of Credit Visualized

Indeed gives a pretty clear explanation. But were the causes this straightforward? Lending money to folks to buy a house when they weren't realistically going to be able to make payments was certainly irresponsible and unsustainable. But was something else at play? I'm usually not quick to believe simple explanations.

A friend recommended I listen to American Life which I had a chance to peruse a little and I recommend it. Here are two particular shows I enjoyed:

The Giant Pool of Money -- Housing Crisis and its Relation to Financial Crisis

Collapse of Banking System

I'm not saying they give all the answers but they do give food for thought.

As for readings: Through New York Times I found a link to Books for Understanding. That site links to a list of books and academic papers examining financial crisis. Gonna take some time to wade through this list. If you have any recommendations or thoughts about this topic please share. To be continued.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Now I need to Advocate for Myself.. Hold Up..

It's going to be easy for me to plead, speak assertively, and demand to speak to a supervisor if my insurance issue doesn't get resolved/apartment maintenance issue isn't dealt with (OK fine, that one doesn't involve a supervisor exactly). I do that every other day with a client. I'm ready to go!!

Hmmm. It's not quite the same to advocate for myself though. It feels challenging (though it depends on how complicated the issue is as well). Not because I don't think I'm deserving of fair treatment. Somehow it's easier to do if I imagine I'm doing it for someone else. Perhaps in a similar way to it being difficult to ask for a promotion for myself. Maybe also because in case manager mode I speak with certain authority that's good to apply in some personal situations as well..

Monday, May 2, 2011

9 Phrases from Clients that Illicit a Long Inward Sigh

1. "You look shorter/wider/more perpendicular today."

2. "I mailed out the original and only copy I had of my birth certificate/receipts/some document that took us 6 months to obtain."

3. "What else you (Empoder) got?" (Meaning, items/goods. Gift cards? A dresser under my desk perhaps?)

4. "I lost my check--"

5. "I won $15,000,000 in the lottery and all I had to do was pay $100 to take part in it!"*

6. (Exasperated) "I've been trying to reach you for two days!! You didn't return my call!"

7. "Want to hear a (joke that I will soon find out is inappropriate for some reason or other)?" Granted, at the end of which I may want to sigh or make a brave attempt not to laugh.

8. Leaving a doctor's office with client, client says "I wanted to tell Dr. Adams that I _______________________. You don't think that was important do you?"

I will be quick to admit I've certainly been in that situation before with my own doctors.

9. "Yeah, (provider's rep) said he was going to get this done!! I don't know, his name was Steve or Barry, something like that."

* I hate scams.

Also see