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More than a meal


September 3, 2015

Our Meals on Wheels program is facing more demand from a growing elderly population, continually increasing costs, and funding that is not keeping pace with the demand for services.  Many decision makers at all levels within the aging network, as well as our own leadership, continually seek lower-cost solutions to make better use of available funding.   One cost-saving method that has repeatedly been offered of late is drop shipment of frozen meals to a senior’s home rather than the traditional Meals on Wheels delivery model of a daily hot meal or a personalized delivery of frozen meals.

It is important to realize that our Meals on Wheels delivery is more than just a meal.   It is an opportunity to make contact with an isolated senior who is probably lonely in his or her own home.  Our volunteers and staff use the delivery as a welfare check for these seniors, ensuring that they remain safe and healthy in their homes. Many of our volunteers deliver regularly to the same seniors, so they are able to spot and report changes in their condition or situation.  We can then report these changes to the responsible party or emergency contact for follow up.  This early intervention when changes occur can get seniors the help they need in a timely manner.

We prefer to provide daily delivery of hot meals; however, because of insufficient funding for additional hot meal dsitribution sites, we deliver frozen meals to the outer parts of Richland County.   Our volunteers and staff who deliver these meals are particularly attuned to the well being of the seniors, because they know they may be the only person seeing that senior on a regular basis.

If meals are drop-shipped on a senior’s porch, it is questionable whether they would even be able to get the box of meals inside the house and into the freezer on their own.  In addition, if many different delivery people deliver the meals, they may not notice changes in the senior and would have no way to contact a responsible party even if they did.  What happens if a senior doesn’t answer the door?  Is the box of frozen meals left on the porch to thaw, thereby compromising food safety?  And what about the seniors themselves?  Who will check to see if they are okay?

It is important to ensure that trade-offs are not being made that produce short-term savings but longer-term health consequences.  Meals on Wheels programs have a long history of demonstrating good outcomes along with good value.  Meals on Wheels America, the national association of Meals on Wheels programs, has commissioned researchers to investigate the impact of meal service delivery on the health and well being of seniors.  Senior Resources will volunteer to participate in this research project, because we believe that the data will show that the traditional Meals on Wheels delivery model will prove to be in the best interests of seniors.

I also know continuing personal delivery is the right thing to do because it is more than a meal.

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