Reaching out to seniors ages 60 and over, the Cherokee Nation hosted the Fourth Annual Cherokee National Elders Summit at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center on Tuesday.
The event included information booths, entertainment and lunch for all in attendance. The building was nearly full as folks roamed the booths, talked with one another, or received free flu shots. It was also a chance to inform people about fraud, because seniors are often targeted by con artists.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker was on hand and said the Elders Summit would “arm you with the information to be able to recognize a scam.”
“There are folks out there that are preying on elders,” said Baker. “Not just Cherokee elders, but they’re preying on elders. As Cherokees, we’re known for being very giving people with big hearts, that are very religious. We believe if there is somebody with a need, we share what we got.”
A program discussed was the Medicare Assistance Program, which comprises two divisions: Senior Health Insurance Counseling Program, and Senior Medicare Patrol. SHIP works to inform people about various health insurance issues, including information on Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care, and other health coverage plans. SMP provides individuals with ways to protect themselves against fraud and abuse.
Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden said he remembered a time when he was “the kid,” but “all of a sudden” has become the “old guy.” He also said there are two special groups the tribe makes sure to serve: the youth and elders.
“The wisdom that you all have, we need to continue to carry on – those that speak Cherokee, those that sing in Cherokee, those that know the old ways,” said Crittenden. “The ones that are still here with us that know those things – know the medicine, know the food, and all of those things – I call you a national treasure.”
The Cherokee Nation Home Health Hospice Outreach was at the summit, handing out pamphlets with information regarding home medical care, care for the terminally ill, and outreach support for people approaching nursing home-level care. Penny Gifford, CNHHS, Inc. director of community relations, said its services are not limited to Native Americans, and those with Medicare don’t have to pay out of pocket.
Cherokee Elder Care were also in attendance, telling about the array of services offered across 3,000 square miles. Some services include transportation, medications, home health, therapy, and nursing care. Deb Proctor, program director, said CEC’s “mission is to help seniors stay in their homes as long as possible.”
“Today we took 35 participants to the lake on a picnic,” said Proctor. “These are people in wheelchairs, walkers – all levels of ability. We send enough staff so that we can make sure we have what’s needed. Some of them said, ‘I haven’t got to go to the lake in 10 years.’ So it’s important that we add to the quality of life; not just care, but quality.”
Cherokee Elder Care also serves Native Americans and non-Natives. To qualify, people must be at least 55 years old, need some level of nursing home care, be able to live safely in the community, and live within the service area. Thelma Pittman, CFO, said the seniors that join the CEC join a community.
“If they’re not with us, they’re in a nursing home and they’re isolated,” said Pittman. “Here, they have socialization. It’s just a completely different mindset.”
For information about the Medicare Assistance Program, call 405-521-6628. For information about CNHHS, Inc., call 918-458-6102 or visit www.cnhhs.org. For information about Cherokee Elder Care, call 918-453-5554.