HELENA — Law enforcement officials referring individuals to Montana’s Adult Protective Services (APS) is on pace for a 50% increase in 2021.
The jump is because elder abuse is on the rise in Montana and the Department of Justice partnered with the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to train law enforcement officials on the topic.
“They take their money, their assets, their property and use it for themselves or for somebody other than the older person,” one instructor said.
In a classroom filled with uniformed law enforcement officials is a two-hour training on a criminal trend in Montana.
“They get calls from people trying to scam them,” another instructor noted.
Loren Mardis -- an instructor, and the Director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit -- says he’s spent years teaching this course on how to spot elder abuse.
“Our block of instruction at the [Montana Law Enforcement Academy] really focuses on the aspects of Elder Abuse exploitation and neglect,” said Mardis. “It goes beyond just the fraud that is perpetrated against the Medicaid or the Medicare programs."
Elder abuse in Montana is a serious issue. As our population gets older, so do the chances of neglect, exploitation, and more. DPHHS reported a record high 4,500 cases in Montana in 2020, a nearly 30% increase since 2018.
“Our numbers have increased exponentially over the years and we don't believe that's because there's any more abuse that's occurring but just because the message is getting out and it's becoming something that's more widely looked at and recognized," says Trevor Tangen, the Program Manager for APS.
That recognition is now being put into action. Adult Protective Services announced they’ve begun their own Elder Abuse training at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy to go along with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Two similar courses, to bring more awareness of the issue to our law enforcement officers and beyond.
“One of the other goals is to see this to expand out so that not just at the academy but all across the state that all law enforcement and all the entities that are tied to these cases also receive the same training,” says Michael Hagenlock, APS Bureau Chief. “It's very important that people understand that aging is a natural process, but abuse isn't.
You too can be a part of Elder Abuse reporting and prevention.
There are resources available to help. For example, to help prevent financial exploitation, DPHHS said it’s crucial that individuals have their legal documents, such as estate planning and Powers of Attorney, prepared well ahead of a medical emergency and to share those documents with a trusted circle of family and friends.
DPHHS offered the following suggestions:
- Review all of your legal documents, especially your estate planning documents with a legal professional.
- Make sure that you have valid, and protective Health and Financial Durable Powers of Attorney. Creating specific, limited and well-drafted documents can help protect you against financial exploitation and make it easier to honor your wishes, when you are not able to speak for yourself.
- Draft a detailed plan and communicate it with friends and family members. This is a vital step to prevent future abuse, as well as ease strain on your family and caregivers.
- Estate planning documents should be reviewed periodically, but especially anytime there is a death of a named person, a divorce, a new decade passes, a new diagnosis is received or there is any significant decline in physical or mental well-being.
To report abuse, neglect or exploitation call APS intake at 1-844-277-9300 or go to www.aps.mt.gov.