FARMINGTON — U.S. Senator Susan Collins made several stops in Franklin county communities last Friday, including Wilton, Farmington, and Coplin Plantation.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins talks with William “Butch” Graves, a resident of Woodlands Senior Living. Butch and his wife Iva recently moved to Woodlands from their home in Temple. Submitted photo

In Farmington, Senator Collins toured Woodlands Senior Living, a senior care facility built in 2017. The Farmington location is one of eight sites throughout Maine. Its accommodations include independent living apartments, a 57–bed assisted living and a 22–bed memory care unit.

Collins focuses on eldercare in her Senate work, and specifically in the area of dementia. She founded the Alzheimer’s Task Force in Congress and continues to co–chair the group. She helped pass legislation that provided a total of $2.34 million dollars in Alzheimer’s research in 2019, which provides for new scientific considerations of how the disease develops, including genetics, environmental factors and physiological factors.

The Senator also spent time in the last legislative session working to improve Alzheimer’s care, helping to introduce two bipartisan bills: the Younger–Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act, recognizing that younger Azheimer’s patients need access to support programs, and the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which would help expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to care planning once diagnosed with the disease.

During her tour of Woodlands Collins spoke of the need for prescription drug coverage reform, citing loopholes that allow drug manufacturers to tweak patents before expiring to eliminate generic competition. While several bills seeking to close the loopholes over the last few years have not made it to law, she expects new legislation to be introduced again this October.

Collins noted that among the biggest challenges facing Americans are the financial realities of aging—retirees outliving their savings and rampant senior fraud. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that in 2018 $3 billion dollars was stolen from seniors through fraudulent scams, varying from spoofed phone call emergencies, investments and phony IRS/law enforcement threats. Collins believes that number to be too conservative, in part due to a sense of shame that keeps victims from reporting such crimes.

“Really, the scope of these scams is limited only by our imaginations,” Collins said. Even she has been on the receiving end, taking a call presumably from a nephew who claimed to have been robbed of money, airline tickets and passport while traveling abroad. “I advised the caller to go the U.S. Embassy, which is what I would tell anyone. I called my brother, who of course assured me my nephew was fine and right where he should be.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins toured Woodlands Senior Living of Farmington on August 2. L-R: State Senator Russell Black, Woodlands Program Coordinator Holly Barron, Woodlands Program Coordinator Dawn Rockwell, Senator Susan Collins, Woodlands Executive Director Marcie Barnes, Woodlands Program Coordinator Barbara Mears and Woodlands Chief Operating Officer Matthew Walters. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

Collins chairs the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, which annually releases the Fighting Fraud booklet, a guide to help seniors and their caregivers recognize the top scams targeting the elderly and ways to protect themselves from fraud. Copies of the booklet are distributed to senior care facilities and local law enforcement departments. A PDF version of the booklet is also available.

Earlier on Friday Collins visited a Coplin Plantation site where fifteen forestry students are participating in the Mechanized Logging Operations Program. That evening she attended Wilton’s Blueberry Festival, volunteering in the serving line at Wilton Congregational Church’s chicken barbecue.

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