Mau poised to help seniors with services, questions

Elder benefits specialist brings personal experience to post
By: 

David M. Wilhelms Leader Correspondent


Photo by David M. Wilhelms Tricia Mau, Elder Benefit Specialist in the Shawano County Aging Unit, applies personal experience in aiding Shawano County residents 60 years or older with questions on services and benefits. She’s been in her position for six weeks, and “I definitely see myself as an advocate for the older people in the community in navigating all of those services. I really like being the point person for answering questions.”

Shawano County’s new advocate for the aging is no stranger to helping people. Tricia Mau worked in the county’s public assistance office before becoming the Elder Benefits Specialist about six weeks ago.

When talking about the path that led her to her new job, “the turning point for me was losing my grandmother last year,” Mau said. She added that it was hard watching her mother and her aunts struggle to understand all the Medicare requirements and all the benefits.

In her job in the county aging unit, Mau is available to answer questions and meet with Shawano County residents age 60 or older, regardless of income. While walk-ins are welcome, Mau said she prefers appointments so that she is able to set aside time for each client. She has already accumulated a client list of more than 100 people.

Mau said her background in retail customer service and working with public assistance programs “definitely prepared me for this position.” She has also received specific training on aging programs. “I definitely see myself as an advocate for the older people in the community in navigating all of those services,” she said. “I really like being the point person for answering questions.” She likes to conduct what she calls a benefit checkup to assess what they have and what they might need.

One obstacle older people face is the Social Security Administration’s recent push for recipients to do more online, instead of by mail or in person. Mau pointed out that filing an application online takes about 15 to 20 minutes, while the nearest Social Security office is all the way over in Green Bay and would likely include a long wait to speak with someone in person.

She said she has found that people in their 60s are fairly tech-savvy, but computer skills are scarce among her clients in their 70s and 80s. “It’s quite a barrier” for people in those age groups, she said, especially for those without computers at home. The solution for many seniors is to use public computers at the library or to come to her. She said she even helps people set up email accounts so that they can communicate with Social Security.

Although prepared to help with the alphabet soup of government programs and agencies, Mau said her “three big hitters” are Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security retirement benefits. “I handle a lot of questions like, ‘Do I take Part D or look for a supplement?’” she said.

Despite all of the controversy over the future of Medicare, Mau said that political turmoil is not top of mind for most people. They’re focused more on the immediate issues of getting benefits or enrolling in programs, she added.

The Shawano native (and great-granddaughter of former Leader owner Jean Donald) returned to Shawano in 2013 after getting a degree from Carroll College in Waukesha, where she met her husband.

She first applied her degree in business and marketing in the retail sector in the Milwaukee area, working at Target and eventually the corporate headquarters of Kohl’s as an analyst in the buying office. “There was such a different feeling to Shawano moving back, ” she said, adding that they don’t miss the traffic, commuting time or other headaches involved in living in an urban area.

Although there is an Elder Benefits Specialist in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, Mau said she felt the position and its services aren’t well known. She plans to change that through outreach, including monthly visits to meal sites starting in July. She’ll present a discussion topic at each visit.

FYI

Tricia Mau, Shawano County Elder Benefit Specialist, is available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Shawano County Aging Unit office in the Fellman Center at 607 E. Elizabeth St., Shawano. For an appointment, call 715-526-4688.

She can help elders with:

• Health insurance and access

• Medical assistance

• Medicare Parts A, B, C and D

• SeniorCare

• BadgerCare+

• Medical debt remediation

• Long-term care insurance coverage issues

• Income support

• Food Share

• Social Security

• Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and state supplement

• Social Security disability

• Railroad Retirement benefits

• Lifeline / Link Up

• Community-based services

• Community Options Program

• Home and community-based Medicaid waiver programs

• Housing and utilities

OVERSET FOLLOWS:• Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program

• Wisconsin Weatherization Assistance

• Subsidized housing access / tenant rights

• Utility shutoffs

• Housing repair loans and grants

• Homestead Tax Credit appeals (not applications)

• Property Tax Deferral Program