Big Sky Senior Services was awarded a mini-grant to teach employees of financial institutions how to recognize and report incidents of financial abuse of the elderly. According to Executive Director Denise Armstrong, the project was motivated by demand on the part of these employees.
“There has been such a large increase in financial exploitation in the past four to five years,” says Armstrong. “Originally, we had been using a downscaled version of this program, starting about eight years ago. We had to really push it on the banks…Then things turned around, the banks began coming to us, saying, ‘We need this.’ This program has grown out of that demand.”
The project consisted primarily of trainings and presentations, which have reached at least two hundred and thirty employees. One hundred and twenty employees have completed the trainings, which are based on a forty-five minute DVD on forms abuse they may encounter. After each form of abuse is described, the DVD is stopped, and participants discuss how to respond to the abuse. Upon completion of the training, participants are certified, and ready to combat abuse in their work.
More than one hundred and ten employees have participated in the presentations. Presentations consist of a condensed version of the DVD used in the trainings. An unknown number were also reached through a two-hour interview with Armstrong on the statewide TV program “Aging Horizons.”
The trainings and presentations have yielded significant results. Armstrong has received several phone calls from bank workers reporting suspicious activity. These cases were handed to Adult Protective Services for investigation. Two cases involved exploitation of more than $10,000.
Armstrong has also received multiple requests from non-bank workers to provide trainings and presentations. Requests have come from Ombudsmen at the Area Agencies on Aging in Montana (who inspect conditions at nursing homes), CPAs, and attorneys, all of whom have reported observing incidents of abuse.
The project will continue in an expanded form. Armstrong is developing learning opportunities for the above groups, as well as for “gate-keepers”—people who have regular contact with isolated seniors, such as mail men or Meals on Wheels volunteers.
For further information on Big Sky Senior Services, please visit their website: http://www.bigskyseniorservices.org/.