Meals on Wheels Becomes a Vehicle for Geriatric Care
New York, NY – For over 60 years, Meals on Wheels America has delivered pre-made entrees to seniors and other eligible individuals throughout the country. By providing prepared meals for those with diminished mobility, the program helps over 2 million Americans continue to live, often independently, in their own homes.
When it comes to care, these volunteers offer much more than a simple meal. Performing regular health and safety check-ins during their visit, Meals on Wheels drivers also serve as the eyes and ears of healthcare providers.
Meal recipients are typically over the age of 60 and may have a condition or physical limitation that makes it challenging to go grocery shopping or cook. This demographic, explains chief medical officer for West Health, Zia Agha, has a particular need for frequent health monitoring. “The fact that you don’t have resources to feed yourself or you are so frail you can’t cook is a very big marker that you are going to have high healthcare utilization,” says Agha.
With this knowledge, Meals on Wheels launched More Than a Meal. The campaign will focus on formalizing the wellness checks that have, for a long time, been a welcomed side dish to the program’s main objective. More Than a Meal will involve partnerships with insurers, hospitals, and healthcare systems. Volunteers will be trained to recognize symptoms and help recipients monitor existing conditions.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Results from a recent Brown University study confirmed that meal delivery services not only help the elderly stay out of nursing homes but also decrease the number of falls experienced and generally improve mental health. And with programs like More Than a Meal, a small investment could create huge savings. It’s estimated that if every state were to increase the number of seniors receiving meals by a mere 1%, they would cumulatively save over $100 million.
As our elderly population continues to increase, innovation in the geriatric space will be crucial. And as aging individuals often don’t want to leave home for a healthcare facility or nursing home, there will be a great need for tools patients can use outside of the clinic.
Is there an app for that, you younger, digitally-savvy readers ask?
Well, yes. Already tech is doing some great work in geriatrics and home care. But, as Agha points out, More Than a Meal offers something else. For many meal recipients, a Meals on Wheels volunteer is the only person they’ll see all day. For them, the visits also offer companionship, conversation, and care. And that’s much more than a meal.