Roundup Record Tribune & Winnett Times -

Murray Lou, Area II Agency SHIP Coordinator

 

Lura Pitman

If you are a senior citizen, or becoming one in the near future, you may already know Murray Lou, who is the State Health Insurance Program Coordinator (SHIP), for the Area II Agency, serving eleven counties and two reservations. If you're like me, you probably don't understand exactly what the Area II Agency on Aging does, especially with the Musselshell Council on Aging that is already in Roundup. Murray is a trained staff member who provides assistance with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other issues relating to seniors and the disabled. She visits local communities and senior centers around the counties to help senior citizens get the information they need going into retirement and beyond. If you are a little lost on how or when you would qualify for one of these programs, Murray Lou is the lady to speak to. Murray Lou also offers classes called Medicare 101, to inform seniors about how and when to sign up for Medicare. She explains that you may have penalties for the rest of your life if you are not timely in signing up for Medicare withing three months of your 65th birthday.

Agency also has a program called "Community First Choice". Murray Lou explains that this program is headed by Laura at Area II, and it is designed to help people to remain in their home, hiring people, depending on the level of care that is needed. Whatever is going to help that person remain in their home is the first focus. Area II is not a hiring agency for elder care, however, if you find a person who will help with your care or that of your senior, the Area II Agency can do payroll through them for your employee. It is income based for lower income seniors to have that service. "Veteran Directed Care" is another program offered from Area II Agency. These services are provided by Susan and Rebecca. This program focuses on empowering veterans and their families by expanding their choice of long-term services and support so that they can live at home as long as possible. If someone you know is struggling with dementia, they have resources and a booklet available called, Caring for a Person with Memory Loss. People can also come into the Area II office to see if they qualify for SNAP, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and LIEAP, Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

The Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is another thing that Murray Lou will always talk to seniors about because there are so many scammers. The SMP helps to educate people scams. She encourages seniors not to answer any numbers that they do not recognize, and further states that sometimes just answering the phone will end up putting charges on your phone bill. Two other ways seniors are targeted are with supplemental insurances and Reverse Annuity Mortgages (RAM). There are good Medicare supplement insurances that are legit, but it would be good to speak to someone at Area II if you have any questions about the legitimacy of an insurance company. A reverse annuity mortgage, is when you own your own home, you can sell it back to the bank, and the bank will give you a monthly payment, but when you die the bank will own your home. Murray Lou explains that it is not always in the best interest of the individual, and it should be a family decision. According to Murray, there are many RAM scammers out there.

When surveys are offered to the community and through the mail from Area II Agency, Murray Lou encourages anyone 55+ to take the survey. She states that they are anonymous, but through the zip code information is collected that helps to gain grants monies for the area.

Before moving to Montana, Murray Lou worked three seasons with seniors in Wyoming. She worked with disabled people for a decade in Buffalo, Sheridan, New Castle and Gillette areas. She moved to Roundup four years ago the day after the massive hail storm. Many Roundup students know Murray Lou as Mrs. L, as she worked for the school as a substitute teacher. She worked a couple other jobs here in Roundup, then was going to retire, but ended up being offered a job with Area Agency II. Murray Lou is a great addition to the already great team at Area II. The group is professional, approachable, and best of all, they are helping many communities in their work.

Murray Lou is enjoying her new career, and tells me that she loves getting out into the different communities helping people, seeing people, talking about their plans for the future, and asking what they are doing to make their homes safe. She encourages people to make decisions while they are clear minded so that in the event that something happens to you or your spouse, or your mother or father, that you will know what to do.

Area II Agency covers Judith Basin, Fergus, Petroleum, Musselshell, Golden Valley, Sweetgrass, Stillwater, Carbon, Big Horn, Lamedeer, and Yellowstone counties. If you or someone you know is seeking a service but does not know how to go forward, this is a first stop to find direction. Assessing the need and finding the next step forward is what they do best. The Area II Agency is located near the C. Brewer Building at 1502 4th Street West in Roundup.

 

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