– [Adrianne] Good morning, my name is Adrianne Cotton, director of the Montana Area Agencies on Aging Association. Thank you for joining our live interactive telephone town hall. We host these events to give our public leaders the chance to speak directly with you wherever you are, and today we’ll be speaking about community resources available to you and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 and from frauds and scams. Our panelists include Marcy Brookie, your area agency on aging director, Chuck Munson, assistant attorney general, and Paulette Ramsey, SHIP counselor. If you have a question, you can press *3 on your phone at any time, and you’ll be placed in line to speak with a member of our staff. They take down your name and where you’re calling from, and then the next time you hear your name you’ll be live on the call and able to ask your questions. We receive a lot of questions that are life events. So if we’re not able to address your question directly please call or text me Adrianne at, 465-6268. And again, if you have any questions for our panelists, just press *3 on your phone. So we’ll get started here with Marcy. Marcy let’s focus first on local services. How has the needs of local residents and caregivers changed due to the COVID-19 crisis and what key resources are available through the area agency on aging?
– [Marcy] Thanks, Adrianne. As we know our lives completely changed with COVID. Number one is people, especially our elderly, are more isolated and there’s a fear factor of keeping them home, congregate meals at senior centers which offers socialization completely stopped. Our senior volunteers suddenly couldn’t volunteer due to being in a high risk category, and some of those still working found themselves jobless. They locked themselves at home and became cutoff from a lot of the community. Area two worked with the councils on aging and senior centers to convert congregate meals which is a warm meal, served at a senior center to what we call takeout meals where people can come to the center and actually pick up a meal and take it with them. This became a huge success and we were able to continue the nutrition meal program. Area two’s office with the help of our centers and councils on aging, immediately began telephone reassurance calls to clients and anyone else referred to us to check in on people, to make sure they’re doing okay or connect with services or resources for their individual needs. We worked with our retired senior volunteer program, RSVP, to get groceries and prescriptions to those staying at home, more home delivered meals are being offered to those that do not come to centers for a takeout meal. So be sure to call your local senior center if you’re not receiving that because you can during this time. The volunteers that deliver those home delivered meals then have opportunity to physically see the person at their home and check on them. Several of those organizations we contract with to provide senior services such as the Fergus County Council On Aging in Lewistown, Adult Resource Alliance, and Big Sky Senior Services both in Billings, Carbon Stillwater Community Services in Joliet. They all jumped in feet first to make sure the seniors in their communities are being taken care of. Thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and CARES Act funding, we’ve been able to reach and serve more people and more meals than in the past. And it’s allowed for some creativity in carrying out those services during these difficult times. For example, in Bridger, a very small town, the school offered a school bus and volunteered to help deliver meals, because our seniors couldn’t always just go do that because it’s our seniors that are actually running the senior centers, which is the high risk category for COVID. The Crow tribe worked with our transportation program to deliver meals to the vast area they cover, and we were able to connect both Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribes with frozen meals, delivered from Montana Correctional Enterprises. In June under the governor’s guidance and assistance from the DPHHS public health officer, as well as our local County health departments, we had a few senior centers reopened to congregate meals and activities, and we are working through the new normal of living with COVID-19. Throughout area two’s 11 County~ and two reservation service area, We are continually reaching out to seniors through local newspapers and radio stations, flyers, mailers, and social media such as Facebook, to let people know we are here even if they just need someone to talk to. The direct number so that you know, to our office that we’ll reach our office here in Roundup, is, 323-1320. We also offer a statewide 800 number that will connect you with your local area agency wherever you are throughout the state. And that number is, +1 800-551-3151. And then in regards to the caregivers that you asked, area two have caregiver programs and those program leaders have adapted to utilizing other methods of communication between our office and the actual caregivers. We’ve encountered a few challenges of caregivers testing positive for COVID-19. In most cases, there has been an additional or backup caregiver that was able to step in, so that our clients did not go without assistance. We’ve also had clients that have refused their services for a while out of fear that the caregiver could bring in COVID into their home. We encourage the use of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, continual hand washing for both our clients and caregivers, we’ve provided clients and with masks, our office has also been transitioning to updated technology so we can offer virtual meetings or interaction, via Zoom or Skype. Due to limited internet throughout our rural counties, this has been a huge learning curve for everyone, but our staff has continued to be available during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, eight to five. Thanks Adrianne.
– [Adrianne] Thanks Marcy, that’s fantastic information and we definitely appreciate the extra work that’s been in our rural areas and especially with limited connectivity. Just wanna remind our folks on the phone, go ahead and press *3, if you have a question for one of our panelists, and next we’ll go to Chuck. Chuck, you’ve helped to foster the Eastern Montana Elder Justice Council. Can you tell us about the council and what you hope to accomplish?
– [Chuck] Yeah, thanks. You can hear me, Adrianne?
– [Adrianne] I sure can.
– [Chuck] Great, so the Eastern Montana Elder justice Council, it’s a new council that was created by an executive order from the governor in late 2019. So this is before coronavirus hit. We got populated with members that were nominated to the council on Valentine’s day of this year. So we’ve been in technical existence since February 14th, just about a month before the pandemic really hit the country and the state. And our mission is twofold and I’ll get into some details, but real broadly, we’re created to coordinate community efforts and to respond in Eastern Montana to financial exploitation, abuse and neglect of seniors. We cover a 22 County region, counties that I think we’re covering that are on today’s call, are Big Horn, Carbon, Golden Valley, Musselshell and Stillwater, but there’s 17 other counties in the Eastern half of the state that we cover as well and so if there’s any kind of overlap with people calling in from other counties, if you’re in the Eastern part of the state there’s a good chance that we cover you. We’re a pilot project and we intend to provide recommendations for the state of Montana to establish more effective entire state advocacy of the senior citizen population in the future. It’s our opinion that teams like this oughta probably be established in other regions of this State, but we started with Eastern Montana. And to summarize the overall purpose, the council’s focused on addressing elders financial exploitation and fraud, and abuse and neglect. We want to address these problems through three ways. Number one, prevention, number two, intervention, and then number three, investigation and prosecutions. Now prevention is sort of self-explanatory but basically our council has a subcommittee whose purpose is to prevent as many problems as possible through the education and outreach efforts in a part of the state that we think is perhaps historically not getting as much attention in Eastern Montana. The historically outreach events tend to happen in Montana’s bigger cities, the population centers like your Billings, and your Bozeman and your Missoulas, your Great Falls, Kalispell, and what we’ve been trying to do is give more attention to the more rural counties. The investigation and prosecution portion is maybe also somewhat self-explanatory. We have a team on our council that’s there to support local law enforcement and local County attorneys and the development of cases. Very basically put, bring bad guys to justice through law enforcement investigations and court proceedings. And then maybe what I’m gonna focus the most on today, is our intervention efforts, ’cause we have an intervention subcommittee too. And I think it’s going to be a really important component because if you’re looking to have these issues realistically, even if we have, you know, ambitious goals on the prevention team, one is not gonna ever be able to prevent all frauds and scams and exploitations from happening. And then on the other side, unfortunately you can’t always prosecute them all either. So our intervention team exists to identify and stop fraud and scams as soon as possible after learning about and confirming that something is a myth. We also will be wanting to help someone recover from a financial fraud or abuse or exploitation as well. So if you wanna ask me, Adrianne later for some concrete examples of what I’m talking about I have a few simple examples of things that have happened to folks in Montana in the region we’re talking to you today, that I can share. But to wrap it up, some people who work with seniors, they may have heard of the teams called FAST teams, F-A-S-T, FAST teams and fast is an acronym for financial abuse specialist team. And this council is the state’s first and only fast team, but we’re also, we think of ourselves as being fast plus because we also have been tasked with looking into situations involving physical abuse and neglect too. So we have a lot we hope to accomplish. It’s not just in this region, although we’re focused on this region, but, we intend to be an example for the rest of the state where teams don’t exist yet. So thanks, that’s my introduction for our council right now.
– [Adrianne] Thanks Chuck, that was fantastic. I really appreciate that you guys are the first established group, there are a lot of people on our call right now from rural Montana and it definitely helps to expand that outreach outside of our areas that just have a higher population such as Billings and I really appreciate hearing that you folks are helping people recover when they’ve been a victim of a scam. Next, let’s go to Paulette. Paulette, can you tell me about the state health insurance program and how folks can learn more during the COVID-19 pandemic?
– [Paulette] Good morning, Adrian. Yes, I’m a SHIP counselor. The Montana State Health Insurance Assistance program, known as SHIP, provides no cost, health benefits, counseling and advocacy for Medicare beneficiaries and their families or caregivers. Our mission is to educate, advocate for, counsel, and empower people to make informed benefit decisions. The Montana SHIP is an independent, objective, and confidential assistance program, funded by the administration on community living, and it’s not affiliated with the insurance industry. This program is administered by the Montana office on aging, and is operated through our area agencies on aging. And you may contact your local SHIP counselors at, +1 800-551-3191. And this will bring you to your local area agencies. Also, our direct number here is, 323-1320. We, during this time of COVID have not been able to see our clients in-house, so we are spending a lot of time on the phone with telephone reassurance or with people calling in with questions for Medicare and Medicaid. We also have been doing as much outreach as we can. In our local area here in Roundup, we have two newspapers that we periodically put in articles on things that are important to our clients. Also, we do utilize our local radio, once a week we attend and talk about important information and things that are upcoming for the SHIP people. And we–
– We’ve, I’m sorry, also, we’re going to the senior centers on a monthly basis, and unfortunately we are not able to do that. But when we went to the senior centers, we did bring a presentation with us, which we went over with them. We are still providing our senior centers, with those presentations. We do mail them to each senior center and they in turn then send them out with the take and go meal, or the home delivered meal or where some senior centers are having congregate meals again.
– [Adrianne] Excellent, thank you, Paulette, super important information for folks in Montana, especially with the need for adequate healthcare coverage these days. And I’m gonna recap just ’cause I see we have a handful of new participants. I wanna remind folks on the phone, if you have a question for our panelists, go ahead and press *3, and let’s go ahead to our next question with Marcy. Marcy, one of the most difficult issues facing our community during this pandemic is isolation from others and fatigue as a result of the isolating. Can you please outline any guidance to older adults or their caregivers for remaining connected in the community?
– [Marcy] Sure, as I stated earlier week, our office continues to do calls to our clients to check in with them. Some of our clients don’t have family to do that but I do encourage to always reach out to family members as well. Sometimes our seniors are very proud individuals and they won’t ask for help. And during COVID for our own mental health issues, just the fear of getting sick, different things out there, use your phone, connect with people that you typically did on a daily basis. But our office continues to make those calls as do some of our contractors, and we are working with a lot of them right now because it is open enrollment with Medicare part D, so our clients do call in and we’re always checking in on them not just asking about what do you need for a drug plan, what are your drugs, part of that is making sure that people are okay and have what they need to continue. I would encourage everyone not to be afraid to reach out for that help. We are here in our office, if you just need to talk to someone or need anything, don’t be afraid to reach out to us. There’s never a stupid question. We’re always here and we will do our best to help you with anything that we can. The other thing is your medical providers, a lot of people seem to be neglecting their medical needs, not going in to see their doctors as they need, and we need to continue to take care of our health and make those medical appointments. And if you are feeling down, if there is fatigue, if there is stress, depression, please reach out to your medical providers for that assistance during this time. Don’t feel cut off from the world as the phone isn’t always the best, face to face sometimes is, that’s what we’re used to, but we are just a phone call away and we will do what we can. With caregivers, feeling fatigue, there’s a lot of caregiver programs out there, here at area two we do have a couple of different ones and there are resources available. We have a wonderful program offered statewide through the area agencies called Lifespan Respite which is a voucher system, and it’s designed to provide temporary relief to the primary caregiver of an individual. So you don’t necessarily need to be on a qualified caregiver program, such as one of ours that we offered through area two. You may just be a caregiver, primary caregiver for a loved one at home and need a break. Maybe you need to take that day to go shopping, get away or to a medical appointment, somebody needs to be with that loved one at home. If you contact our office, we can hook you up with that program, assist you through the simple application process. So that voucher works for planned or emergency care. And that is for the caregiver, not for the client receiving the care, it is to give that caregiver a break. So it’s respite for the caregiver. Our office also works with big sky senior services in Billings for another example who offers respite services, and the Adult Resource Alliance in Billings, offers a caregiver support program. So again those key phone numbers to contact our office are directly at, 323-1320. Or remember that 800 number, +1 800-551-3151. We can get you connected with those local resources within your county for those things. So there is a lot of help out there, that’s just examples of a couple, and we’ll do our best to connect you with what you need. Thanks.
– [Adrianne] Awesome, thank you, Marcy, I really appreciate that information and one of the most I get called on actually is caregiver fatigue and it’s great information about the rest of the program, thank you. Next for our folks on the call, I’d like to take a moment to hear whether you’re interested in becoming more involved, either through learning more about our programs with aging services, or through advocacy efforts to enhance services. So if you’d like to become more involved, please press one and we’ll be contacting you to discuss your interests. Again, just press one on your keypad and we’ll contact you. Next, let’s go to Chuck. Chuck, can you share with us an example of a scam and a successful intervention that we’ve seen in Montana?
– [Chuck] Sure, a little bit of background here in the time of the coronavirus. Turns out imposter scams are up and they’re up big time. And an imposter scam is generally any type of scam where you’ve got someone contacting you, and they’re pretending to be someone that they’re not in order to steal your money or your valuable personal information. Now, why would these scams be up now? Well, as Marcy just said, people are isolated now, more so than ever. And the more isolated people are, it turns out, the more vulnerable they are to become to these scammers tactics and scammers know this. So they’ve actually seen this time as an opportunity for them. To try to familiarize you a little bit with some common scams, a list of the common imposter scams that you may have heard of just in the media or in the world or the IRS scam where people, impersonate being from the IRS and saying that you owe money or you’re going to jail, or the Medicare scam where somebody says, your Medicare is about to be canceled and they want some personal identifying information from you or medical information. There’s lottery scams that are fake lotteries, there’s a common one in Montana and the rest of rural country called the grandparents scam where someone impersonates a grandchild and there’s several others, but I didn’t wanna spend my time today being too long winded about the specifics of the scams. These scams don’t actually affect more seniors than other people. They affect seniors and non seniors alike but it turns out that when seniors are victimized, seniors do tend to lose more money for the simple reason that seniors have more money to lose. So, I wanted to today, instead of going over them, kind of telling you in theory what the scams may look like, I wanted to give you two different examples to illustrate how a simple report and intervention can make a really big difference. I look at these as sort of being a low-hanging fruit of what we can all do to help people. We’ve seen a lottery scam in Eastern Montana where in one case, a widower believed he has won the lottery and sent through the mail some cash that he was told would pay for taxes and expenses on the front end so that they could release his quote unquote, you know, his winnings at this fake lottery. Once he had sent the money over seas, the scammers realized they’d convinced him, and so they kept calling him and having him pull out more and more cash from his accounts to send overseas. They told them how to hide it and everything and no one at the bank ever reported anything, and he ended up decimating his life savings and lost more than a $1.5 million of his hard earned money. He wasn’t from a wealthy family or a wealthy man, he had just been frugal and smart with his money over the course of a 35 plus year career and had you know, a massed over a million dollars and he lost most of it. He didn’t even report this until he himself saw an AARP magazine article and ended up self-reporting it to AARP who then reported it to authorities. But at that point it was many weeks after the scam had happened and the money was long gone somewhere in Asia. My opinion, and I’ll just state it here is that this type of thing should never happen and it doesn’t have to, so I wanna contrast it with the situation where somebody without getting too much in somebody’s business simply said something to somebody and it stopped it. So contrast his situation with the situation where a widow, and these are happening in your region, these are not in theory, these actually happened to Montanans. A widow was online dating, what appeared to be a kind and handsome and age appropriate and successful man. The man claimed to work as a contractor with some fairly big projects that he did overseas. And after a significant courtship over the internet, these two were, this man and this Montana widow, were getting closer and the man said he was overseas working and having some permitting issues in a very familiar Western European country. He said that he needed some money, some monetary infusions to the tune of just under a half a million dollars, and if this widow could front him that money he’d pay her back fully plus significant profits, and plus this is no big deal cause you and I are going to be moving in together soon, likely marrying, and this is how you can trust me. Well, it turns out this Montana widow actually had that type of money from a lifetime of savings with her late husband. So, she trusting her online dating companion went to her bank to order a funds transfer of this money overseas. But in this case, the only difference here is that the banker first contacted Adult Protective Service and Adult Protective Services then called my office, and we were able to pause the transaction just for a bit and have a phone conversation with this Montana woman to tell her about this type of scam. And ultimately she and I give credit to her, she was open-minded enough to see through the scammer’s lies, and she ended up, ultimately protecting your hard earned money. It wasn’t easy for her because she thought she was in a budding relationship but still she had the strength to do it, and it was undoubtedly a scam, and this type of scam is called the romance scam. It can take more than one form but it tends to target older Americans who might be lonely because of the passing of their spouse. In this case, the Cardinal rule, and I’d like you all to be aware of this in your own lives and more than that people who often engage in these calls, I think are people who I look at as messengers of our things. A lot of times the most isolated people, you know, maybe aren’t on these calls. So I’m asking you a favor to share this information with others. The Cardinal rule here in both of these situations is that if you’re engaging with someone over the phone or if you’re online dating someone, you never send them money unless you’ve actually met him in person and started an in-person relationship. If you’ve never seen the whites of their eyes, you really have no way of knowing who’s on the other end of that phone call or on the other end of the internet there. So in the case of, you know, the romance scam, the advice is not that you can’t seek companionship online, it just means don’t send people money online before you’ve met them and actually entered into a more classic David~ relationships perhaps. I’d give the example ’cause I think people think that they can’t trust anybody when they hear these stories, and that’s just, it’s just not the case, it just means have up some guard rails here, where you don’t trust just anyone. I mean, my dad died 20 years ago, my mom said she’s never marry again. But then after about four years, she was pretty lonely and she didn’t really know how to date after being married for 35 years. So, she tiptoed into the dating world again, by online dating, and she didn’t just fall for anybody, but she ultimately did need a man, met the good guy, and they’ve been now married for 15 years. So, I mean, it doesn’t mean don’t online date, it just means be wary of sending people money in this way, and the same thing with the lottery scam. It doesn’t mean you can’t play the Montana lottery but the lottery is never going to call you and say, “Hey you owe us first.” You may owe taxes but you never need to forward that money first. So, you know, if you hear about these things happening to somebody, I’ll be giving you my number at the end of our call today, but just tell somebody is my point. Don’t just let it sit, report to somewhere.
– [Adrianne] Fantastic, Chuck, thank you so much. Gosh, those are great examples and I’m really thankful to hear that the widow who almost lost a half a million dollars was able to get a little bit of help and and didn’t suffer the consequences. And I’m so grateful for the leadership that you all are showing at the attorney General’s office. Next Paulette, let’s discuss, can people access the state health insurance program throughout the year, or and are there eligibility requirements that folks should be aware of? Paulette, do we have you on the phone? You might be muted.
– [Paulette] Oh, sorry, I was muted, sorry. Yes.
– No problem.
– They can contact a SHIP counselor at any time during the year, there are different enrollment times. Right now we are in open enrollment for Medicare part D, which runs from October 15th to December 7th of this year. That is the same parameters every year, October 15th to December 7th, for open enrollment for Medicare part D. And we are here to help people review their plan. Every year our pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies work together to provide new plans for the next year. So just because your plan worked well for you this last year doesn’t mean it’s gonna be the same for next year. So it’s always a good idea to review it. And that’s what SHIP counselors are here for, to help you review those programs and make the best choices for you, for you to make the best choices for the next year. So we are located here in Roundup and our number is, 323-1320. Always consider checking your Medicare part D plan before the next year. We also help people with their Medicare eligibility enrollment and in benefits. And as far as Medicare eligibility, normally that is the three months prior to your 65th birthday, the month of your 65th birthday, and the three months after for Medicare eligibility. If you choose not to get your Medicare part D at that time because it is with a premium, you may have to pay a penalty in the future when and if you decide to get Medicare part D. We can always help you understand the ramifications of a penalty and of not getting Medicare part D when it is your time. Also, there are things, there are programs for lower income people, that maybe the penalty can be waived. So there are different plans such as the Medicare savings program, which is run through the state office of public assistance and Medicare savings program is where the state would pay the Medicare premium on your behalf. This program is an income and resource-based program. So if you feel that your income is low you could give us a call and we could review with you what your income and resources are, so we can determine if you might be eligible for this extra help. Also, we work with Medicare fraud, waste and abuse. We want people to be aware that there is a lot of Medicare fraud out there, and one of the best ways is to be reading your Medicare notices, your Medicare summary notices. If on the summary notice, you notice something that doesn’t seem right, you can always give us a call and we can go over it with you. If it’s possibly a billing error, we can work with you to get that corrected. Or if it is actual fraud, we will also work with you on your behalf. There is also extra help for the Medicare part D program as far as helping to pay your premium, and that is through low income subsidy, through social security, or we also have Big Sky Rx to help low income individuals pay their Medicare part premium. In our office, we also help you apply for Medicaid, if that is something that you may need, and we assist with LIEAP applications section eight, SNAP application, so we are here available for many different types of applications or information.
– [Adrianne] Awesome, thank you, Paulette. These are such complicated systems and I’m so grateful that folks like you are out there in our Montana communities, helping people navigate. I wanna remind folks on the phone, all you have to do is press *3, if you have a question for one of our panelists and next we’ll go to Marcy. Marcy, I know we have a number of people on the phone that I spoke to prior to our call who have a family member in an assisted living facility, and who would like to move them home to improve protection against COVID-19. Do you have any resources or advice that might help some of our listeners today?
– [Marcy] Absolutely, so, first of all, I wanna apologize. It was brought to my attention. I am stating the wrong 800 number. Sometimes, you know something for several years and it just comes out of your mouth wrong. The 800 number to reach your local area agency. Let me just say is, +1 800-551-3191. I misspoke, so those last four digits are three, one, nine, one. So I apologize for that. But as far as those facilities and those assisted living facilities, in the state of Montana we have a wonderful long-term care ombudsman program, and right here in area two’s service area, we actually have I believe seven trained and certified ombudsmen throughout our service area. So an ombudsman is somebody who acts as an advocate. They respond to the concerns of people who live in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They can help residents not only understand, but exercise their right to good care by investigating a complaint, and supplying information suggesting solutions or pressing for actions of change on behalf of the resident. There has been a lot of confusion and concern and fear during COVID with our seniors in long-term care facilities and some family members wanting to move their loved ones home. I would recommend that you contact your local ombudsman consider the pros and cons of moving that loved one from the facility, not react from fear, and then work with the counselors, like those SHIP counselors that Paulette was talking about. Our counselors do so much more than just Medicare and Medicaid, but we do help you connect with those services to make sure everything is in place. If your choice is to move that loved one home. Is there a program that will benefit that individual by going home. Make sure that there’s caregivers in place, different things like that. So, and just remember, as we’ve talked about caregiver fatigue on some of the other questions, being a caregiver especially to a loved one can be a very difficult and draining job. We think we have the best intentions to take mom home, take care of her, and we soon find that it can be a lot of physical as well as emotional stress and really drains on that individual acting as a caregiver. So you really have to be up to the task not just have the good intention of bringing mom home. There’s sometimes reasons that they are in those facilities, due to the care that they receive at that facility. So with that again, if you decide to do that, there are respite programs available, if you need the help, but I would keep in mind that every facility whether it’s a nursing home or assisted living facility they do have COVID policies in place. There are different regulations during COVID, between a nursing home and an assisted living facility. And I am not a trained certified ombudsman so I’m not gonna talk on behalf of that, but there are vast differences. And each COVID policy with each facility is just a fluid document that is continually changing and updating with the way COVID changes just in our communities or maybe if there happens to be a COVID positive person whether it’s a staff member or a resident in one of those facilities, that assisted livings are continually updating those policies. And they do work with our ombudsman program in regards to keeping them updated for safety reasons. So that’s the number one, is to keep in mind the facilities whether it’s an assisted living or nursing home, you do want to keep not only their residents but their staff safe and are putting protocols in place and have put protocols in place to do that. So my best suggestion to you if you are considering a move like that, is call our office. We’ll connect you with whoever your local ombudsman is. Each ombudsman is assigned to different facilities and they know what is going on in those facilities and they can sit with you, talk with you, talk through those pros and cons so that you are making that good, informed best choice for your loved ones, and then they will help connect you with services, sometimes that would maybe be with our counselors at the area agency on aging or other local resources in your area to make sure that everything is in place if that is the choice. So call our office, and again, we’ll just put you in contact with those individuals that can help you because that is a big major choice.
– [Adrianne] Wonderful, thank you so much, Marcy. That’s great information and what a difficult time to be navigating these questions. Next, let’s go to Chuck. Chuck, what have you learned from your time on the Eastern Elder Justice Council that you’d like to ensure folks on our call are aware of?
– [Chuck] That’s a good question and a few things come to mind right away for me. One has to do with just the changing demographics of our state. If folks don’t know it, it’s interesting to know that Montana is the oldest state in the West now and that’s West of the Mississippi. And it’s getting older by the minute. In a decade, our councils, you know, Eastern Montana region it’s projected that about one third of the population in our 22 County area that we oversee is gonna be 65 and older, and the oldest County in the state happens to be in that region. And several of the top 10 are in that region but other parts of the state are aging rapidly too. So the demographics of our state have been and are changing and these different scams and frauds and exploitations that you know, I’m talking about, they have a real financial impact. We don’t know, we don’t have a way of measuring for certain how much money has been or could be lost to senior financial exploitation in Montana specifically. But we do know that reported losses nationwide and this is reported losses, are around 3 billion with a B dollars a year but we also know that most people don’t report. So expert estimates of total losses in the nation are more like $30 billion. That number is jaw dropping for me because I strongly believe that with proper and adequate prevention and intervention services, we have the opportunity in Montana to put a huge dent in these types of losses. So one of the things I’ve taken away after years of sort of observing and working with these lingering issues is that isolation is the kindling of a lot of these frauds and exploitations and a lot of the most lucrative scams and fraud that ended up ripping folks off of their money, and the most money, can be combated by a very few simple habit that folks undertake when using their phones or computers. So my question to folks on this call is, do you want to do something simple and effective to stop fraud and scams, because you can. It may be best for professionals like folks running senior centers and folks working at banks and folks like you Adrianne and Marcy and Paulette and me, in our roles to learn about the details of each type of fraud or scam so that we can recognize them immediately before the ordinary, everyday Montanan. If all they do, if all you do and we do is regularly check on folks that we believe are vulnerable, this goes a very long way to helping them avoid and maybe early detect scams and fraud. Just check on folks that you like, love or are sometimes concerned about. Again, I’ll say it again, just check on them. Instead of thinking that we gotta teach Montanans each and every detail, these constantly evolving scams and frauds. Instead we focus on habits like never and I’ll linger on the word, never ’cause I truly mean it, never providing personal information on a phone call that you didn’t originate, never responding to emails or clicking links when you can’t confirm the source of an email, and again, calling back to some of the scams I talked about early, never sending money to someone you don’t know without talking to somebody you do know first or calling a senior center, or calling me, or Marcy, people you might trust or gain trust in. These are simple habits that if followed they prevent a ton of fraud and scams of all types. So it’s great to learn and keep up with the details of scams and fraud but don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good and I think just developing better, phone and computer habits would go a really, really long way. And again, just checking on folks that you care about, will go a really, really long way. And I think one last thing I’ll say here, and try not to be too long-winded is, I’ve learned that having an aging population in Montana while it maybe presents some challenges, it’s actually a great thing. As the oldest state in the West that just gives us so much more life experience that we can draw from. There’s a lot of wisdom out there. There’s a lot of professional know-how out there, and there’s lots of opportunities and hopefully some willingness to help out. So, you know, by spreading these messages about how to avoid certain scams and frauds, you’re quite literally helping local economies in the state. You’re saving people’s hard-earned money whether someone’s rich or just able to get by maybe in their golden years. By saving their money, you’re preserving their overall wellbeing and helping both you and them, I think, live higher qualities of life. So I care a lot about this message, you know, and I hope you just start, you know, maybe checking on folks more and at least walk away from this call knowing that there’s people to call and talk to about this stuff and it may save you or people you love a lot of money.
– [Adrianne] Thank you, Chuck. I will say I’ve known you for years. You’re never too long-winded, you always have valuable information. And I’m so glad that you raised the issue of our changing demographics, which is why we’re working hard to raise awareness. Because those of us who are on the phone or maybe who knows somebody who’s on the phone whether you need the information now, or whether you might need it in the future, you know aging services is not going away. We have a growing population and we wanna ensure that folks know that we’re here. I wanna say thank you so much to our panelists for taking time out of their day to visit with the residents of Eastern and Central Montana. And I wanna take a few moments to offer you panelists, if you have any closing remarks. we can go ahead and start with Chuck.
– [Chuck] Well, just thanks for listening to me. I’ve shared what I wanted to but what I’ll leave you with is if you think someone you know is being scammed, talk to somebody about it, and I’m gonna give you our number, we can be an outlet for that but we’re not the only outlet, in some ways we’re trying to create a system where there’s no wrong doors here but here’s the right door for sure. It’s 444-4500, or if you want toll free, +1 800-481-6896. And thanks for inviting me, Adrianne, I appreciate it.
– [Adrianne] Wonderful, thank you. Paulette, do you have any closing remarks for our group on the phone?
– [Paulette] Yes, I just want people to remember as SHIP counselors, we are here to help them with a variety of programs and problems and just let us help you understand, your Medicare and any other type of problems that you might come across. Let us help you with that, give us a call, thank you.
– [Adrianne] Thanks, Paulette, and how about you Marcy? Any closing remarks?
– [Marcy] Sure, I just wanted to thank everyone for listening and participating today. As you can tell aging services is near and dear to all of us, and I’m so excited that Chuck was able to join the call today. I’m part of the Eastern Montana Elder Justice Council, and it’s doing positive things and we really look for it to go in a new, positive direction for our seniors. Just a reminder as we go into the holidays since we are talking about COVID, keep safe, think about reducing those family gatherings to maybe smaller family gatherings. Remember when you want those hugs from the grandkids and things like that just keep COVID in mind and practice your social distancing and everybody be safe. I also wanted to say how proud I am of all of our councils on aging and senior centers. This has been quite unprecedented times and we were kind of just hit right in the face with it back in March with COVID-19 not knowing what to do. And we had to do a complete 180 on how we offer services and then just in general, the services that we offer, and out here in rural America and those of us in aging services do giggle because the feds consider us as frontier. One thing we’ve learned is in times of crisis, whether in our small town of flood drought, hailstorms and now COVID 19, our communities seem to coordinate together and take care of our own. And as stressful as this has been for everybody involved of every age, great things have happened within the state of Montana, great things have happened within our own service area of area two. And the coordination of efforts and coordination in our community to care for one another, check in on one another has just been pretty awesome to watch. So I think everybody, pat yourself on the back no matter who you are listening on the call today and again, reach out if you do need anything, we will do our best to connect you with services, and thank you for being here. Thank you so much, Marcy, I’m glad you pointed that out. You in your area in Eastern and central Montana we’ve sure seen some incredible leadership in the last month. I know for sure, Yellowstone County and I’ve had the opportunity to work with the mayor of Roundup, who has had a tremendous amount of leadership at the local level. So you’re lucky to be living with such wonderful community partners. And thank you to the callers for listening in to this this hour. Remember that you’re not alone in this difficult time and there are resources standing by to assist you. This call was sponsored by the Montana area agencies on aging association and we appreciate connecting with you today. I wanna close just with a reminder of my phone number if anyone has any follow-up questions, please feel free to reach out, I’m Adrianne at 465-6268, thank you.
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