Meals on Wheels Oklahoma City is eager to begin a pilot program called ElderEats to bring comfort to seniors and families through an in-person wellness visit five days per week, up to 21 weekly nutritious meals, and ongoing communication with family members. ElderEats won’t be a transaction, it will be a vehicle for love and hope.
MEETING THE NEED
The devastation of COVID-19 has brought senior needs to the forefront. As the virus escalates, seniors are shut-in, taking away their ability to interact or even make routine grocery store trips. Individuals are encouraged to avoid seeing physicians for routine care. Without access to socialization, preventative care, and nutrition, seniors are at a greater risk for premature illness and death.
The question becomes: How would you want your mom, dad or grandparents treated?
The demand for senior services is far outpacing our response. The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits reports 263 member organizations are devoted to children and youth while only 22 focus on seniors.
Meals on Wheels Oklahoma City is eager to begin the pilot program, ElderEats to bring comfort to
seniors and families through an in-person wellness visit five days per week, up to 21 weekly nutritious meals, and ongoing communication with family members.
The spirit of ElderEats is to not be a transaction, it is a vehicle for love and hope.
This fee-based service will provide seniors with resources and a desire to pay for enhanced services, the opportunity to do so. Subscription fees from ElderEats will help sustain Meals on Wheels which provides a free weekday lunch for homebound seniors.
How ElderEats Works
ElderEats is designed to be a subscription service that family members can enroll their seniors in which would provide meals and check-ins throughout the week.
Through an à la carte system, seniors and/or their loved ones can select a package that best suits their needs. Services can simply provide meals on a scheduled basis or bring trained visitors (senior engagement specialists) into their home on a weekly basis. These visits will allow the ElderEats team to ensure our customers are living in a safe environment, eating well, taking their medications, appearing to be in good physical health, and having their social/emotional needs met.
While this is not a medical service, our trained senior engagement specialists will have the knowledge to spot warning signs in seniors, including changes in behavior, mood, physical ability or mental cognition. These in-home specialists will report any changes to a listed emergency contact and next steps can be taken. This prevention can keep seniors out of a hospital or nursing home while improving their quality of life at home.
CARING FOr SENIORS
There are approximately 76 million baby boomers in the U.S. Their children are now in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and in their prime earning years. Their jobs are demanding, many are raising children, and some are raising their grandchildren while providing support to their elderly parents.
In Oklahoma County, 18 percent of residents (101,851) are age 65 or older and of that number, 28 percent are living alone. Caregivers of seniors, especially adult children in the “sandwich generation” are suffering immensely. With 47 percent of all adults in their 40’s and 50’s have at least one parent over 65, this group is either raising young children or supporting an adult child along with their parent(s).
According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, nearly 40 percent of women ages 35-54 reported extreme amounts of stress due to caregiving demands from their children and aging parents.
With ElderEats, our group of compassionate professionals and volunteers can provide the same loving care that we have crafted through the Meals on Wheels program to a new population of seniors while generating income to provide 1,000 more meals each week to homebound seniors in desperate need of a healthy meal and helping hand.
THe IMPACT Of ElderEats
With an unprecedented aging population, the need for senior wellness services is rising. By providing the subscription-based ElderEats program in Oklahoma County, we will be able to fill a wellness gap for seniors and their families.
The delivery of fresh, nutritious meals and socialization will keep seniors living full lives while providing peace of mind for their adult children or other caregivers. The earned revenue from the ElderEats subscription-based program will have a direct impact on homebound seniors who cannot afford meal services, as proceeds can go toward helping to fund the Meals on Wheels program.
Due to the pandemic, St. Luke’s is quickly identifying needs in our community around food insecurity and focusing on addressing the most immediate needs for homebound seniors, children and families. In particular, Meals on Wheels Oklahoma City, as part of St. Luke's/Ending Hunger OKC has experienced a tremendous influx of seniors in need.
Since March 15:
● Added almost 200 new clients to our Meals on Wheels delivery routes;
● Taken on additional homebound clients from 12 partner meal delivery churches that cannot continue services (number is expected to grow);
● Tripled the number of meals leaving our downtown campus's kitchen (delivering 90 meals pre-pandemic to 1,122 now);
● Delivered emergency food boxes to homebound seniors throughout Oklahoma County as the calls are received;
● Delivered over 700 shelf stable boxes to all Meals on Wheels clients with support from the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma;
● Started additional emergency food services for seniors and families through corporate and community partnerships;
Ending Hunger OKC is answering the ever-growing calls of need in our community as they arise. Recently, Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County contacted Ending Hunger to help meet critical immediate needs for 200 families in their program. They are estimating that 50-75% of their parents have already lost their jobs. We prepared and delivered these boxes and additional food boxes for students in the El Sistema and Studio 222 arts programs.
A newly formed partnership with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department will allow us to use their Mobile Market truck to deliver fresh produce into the community. We are looking for ways to sustain the safe delivery of family meals to those in need in our community with this vehicle as well.
In the coming weeks we hope to increase the number of people we are feeding to over 2,000 people a day—more than double our current number of clients. In order to do this, we will need financial support and more volunteers. Every $100 allows us to serve ten more home delivered meals.
Telling the Story
Lois recently became part of the Meals on Wheels homebound delivery service program through her physician who was growing extremely concerned about Lois’s wellbeing after being readmitted to OU Medical Center twice in two months for malnutrition issues. It turns out that Lois was rationing her meals by splitting each one into two. A Meals on Wheels team member was able to enroll Lois on a five-day meal delivery plan, procure immediate meals from the kitchen team with additional frozen meals for the weekend and drive over to her home for a meal delivery and visit. While she was there, she discovered that her living space was dirty and cluttered, impacting her ability to get around safely. With a few hours of conversation, house cleaning and a follow-up with the physician, Lois now has her needs met and her chances of remaining at home and healthy have increased exponentially.