Meals, wheels and ex­tra­or­di­nary vol­un­teers

Home de­liv­ered meal pro­grams pro­vide bet­ter qual­ity of life for home­bound se­niors in South­ern Mary­land

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

Lack of mo­bil­ity in the com­mu­nity or at home sig­nif­i­cantly nar­rows an older per­son’s world, af­fect­ing his or her abil­ity to do what brings en­joy­ment and mean­ing to life, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices.

As func­tional abil­ity — phys­i­cal, men­tal or both — fur­ther de­clines, peo­ple may lose the abil­ity to per­form more ba­sic ac­tiv­i­ties such as tak­ing care of per­sonal hy­giene, feed­ing them­selves and get­ting dressed, the re­port called “The State of Ag­ing and Health in Amer­ica 2013” noted.

Cur­rent data on health-re­lated be­hav­iors among peo­ple 55 to 64 do not in­di­cate a pos­i­tive

fu­ture for the health of older Amer­i­cans. How­ever com­mu­ni­ties can play a piv­otal role by mak­ing healthy choices eas­ier and mak­ing changes to poli­cies, sys­tems and en­vi­ron­ments that help Amer­i­cans of all ages take charge of their health, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

As an ag­ing and se­nior pro­grams nu­tri­tion­ist for the Charles County Gov­ern­ment Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, Lisa Fur­low said pro­vid­ing good nu­tri­tion is vi­tal to keep­ing se­niors strong and healthy.

“Many of them have med­i­cal con­di­tions that can worsen with a poor diet,” Fur­low said in an email. “Without proper nu­tri­tion and flu­ids, peo­ple can be­come mal­nour­ished, weak or de­hy­drated. This can in­crease their risk for falls or worsen their health and put them in the hos­pi­tal. Some clients start [re­quest­ing] meals be­cause they have just had a surgery. Good nu­tri­tion is vi­tal to heal­ing.”

Her agency ad­min­is­ters a va­ri­ety of nu­tri­tion ser­vices to se­nior res­i­dents, aged 60 and older, in ac­cor­dance with statewide nu­tri­tion pro­grams. All menus pro­vided through the depart­ment’s se­nior nu­tri­tion pro­gram are writ­ten by a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian and meet at least a third of the rec­om­mended daily al­lowances of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als for older adults, ac­cord­ing to the Charles County gov­ern­ment web­site.

The ser­vices of­fered through the pro­gram in­clude home-de­liv­ered meals, which are avail­able for eli­gi­ble se­niors and their spouses who are home­bound due to ill­ness or dis­abil­ity, and are un­able to shop for food and pre­pare meals for them­selves. The meals are pro­vided through a co­op­er­a­tive ef­fort be­tween the com­mu­nity ser­vices depart­ment and lo­cal meals-on-wheels or­ga­ni­za­tions. Con­tri­bu­tions to­ward the cost of the meals are re­quested and may be based on a slid­ing scale, the web­site also noted.

“If they fit into that cat­e­gory, then we de­liver [hot lunchtime meals] to them Mon­day through Fri­day,” Fur­low said. “We use vol­un­teer driv­ers who go all over [Charles] county to de­liver meals. We get our meals from the board of ed­u­ca­tion, which is our caterer.” The meals are de­liv­ered to drop-off points through­out Charles County. Vol­un­teers pick up those and de­liver them to in­di­vid­ual homes.

Fur­low said the meals are pre­pared by kitchen staff at the Robert D. Stethem Ed­u­ca­tional Cen­ter in White Plains.

“They all come out of that cen­tral kitchen,” Fur­low said. “We have about 150 vol­un­teer driv­ers that de­liver the meals, but we don’t have any paid driv­ers. The only paid driv­ers are the ones that we con­tract through the board of ed­u­ca­tion who de­liver the meals to the drop-off point.”

Fur­low said the Charles County vol­un­teers are as­signed to one of 11 dif­fer­ent ar­eas. “Each route cov­ers their spe­cific area and then we have vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tors that help us with sched­ul­ing of the vol­un­teers,” she said. “We get the vol­un­teers through var­i­ous dif­fer­ent ways — we ad­ver­tise in our news­let­ters, at the se­nior cen­ters [and] some­times through church bul­letins, [but] a lot of it is word-of-mouth.”

The agency prefers peo­ple who are avail­able mid­day, have their own trans­porta­tion and can com­mit to de­liv­er­ing meals at least once per month, Fur­low said.

“Some­times that’s a chal­lenge for peo­ple who are still work­ing. We only ask peo­ple to com­mit to once a month de­liv­er­ing so some­times even if they’re work­ing, they can work it around if they have a day off or a flex­i­ble sched­ule,” said Fur­low.

“It’s not that tough be­cause it’s nor­mally 10 o’clock [in the morn­ing] to about 1 o’clock in the af­ter­noon, mid­dle of the day,” said Mike Crev­el­ing dur­ing a joint phone in­ter­view with his wife, both of whom are vol­un­teers and live in La Plata. “For some peo­ple, it goes from every other week to once a week. That’s not a gi­ant com­mit­ment I would say. But when you look at your cal­en­dar, say you have a doc­tor’s ap­point­ment or are ar­rang­ing a va­ca­tion, you have to bear in mind what you’re do­ing.”

Mike Crev­el­ing, a re­tired bi­ol­ogy teacher from Oxon Hill High School, has vol­un­teered with the pro­gram for about 10 years. He noted it re­ally is bet­ter to give than re­ceive. Hav­ing an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act and so­cial­ize with home­bound se­niors is the high­light of his day, and of­ten­times his clients’ as well, he said.

“You feel good when you’re do­ing good, so it’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion,” Crev­el­ing said. “I look at the clients as my­self in 10 or 20 years. It is a bright spot in their day to talk to some­one in per­son be­cause one of the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria is they’re sup­posed to be home­bound with lim­ited abil­ity to go out. In many cases, you’re the only per­son they see dur­ing the day and so it makes you feel good as a care provider to see them brighten up. … The se­cret, I think, is that the so­cial in­ter­ac­tion is prob­a­bly more im­por­tant than the nu­tri­tion.”

“I don’t need any of these ser­vices at this time, but there might come a day when I would. So why not go ahead and help those who need help?” said Anne Crev­el­ing, a re­tired math teacher who has been a vol­un­teer driver since 1997. “This is just one way to do it.”

St. Mary’s County Depart­ment of Ag­ing and Hu­man Ser­vices has a di­ver­si­fied home-de­liv­ered meals pro­gram, which is fed­er­ally funded through the Older Amer­i­cans Act as well as through state and county funds and do­na­tions. Clients re­ceive ei­ther fresh, hot meals mid­day, Mon­day through Fri­day, or five frozen meals once a week, de­pend­ing upon need and lo­ca­tion.

“Some­times you’ll find that with these se­niors, the meal that they get from us is re­ally the only meal that they’ll have in a day,” said Monika Wil­liams, a pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor at the Gar­vey Se­nior Ac­tiv­ity Cen­ter in Leonard­town, one of three cen­ters where meals are picked up. “Some of them have other is­sues that they need help with and so I will go in and do an as­sess­ment. If I see they are need­ing as­sis­tance, I can also tell them about some of the pro­grams in the com­mu­nity that they can have ac­cess to. And with their per­mis­sion, I’ll re­fer them to those ser­vices. … We also have grants where some of them can qual­ify and that’ll pay a por­tion of the care­giv­ing agen­cies’ ex­penses. A lot of peo­ple don’t know that.”

With more than 120 vol­un­teers, Wil­liams said they are all want­ing to sim­ply give back.

“I vol­un­teered be­cause I thought it was help­ful to the com­mu­nity,” said Penny Elling­ton of Leonard­town, who has de­liv­ered meals for about one year. “My fa­ther lives with me, he has de­men­tia. So I un­der­stand how el­derly peo­ple can be. It’s good to keep an eye on them.”

Since its in­cep­tion in 1982, Calvert Meals on Wheels — an all-vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion run by a vol­un­teer board of di­rec­tors — has worked in part­ner­ship with the Calvert County Of­fice on Ag­ing to de­liver more than 325,000 meals to se­nior cit­i­zens’ homes. Its mis­sion is three­fold: to pro­vide nu­tri­tious, home-de­liv­ered meals; en­able the home­bound to live in­de­pen­dently as long as pos­si­ble; and to re­lieve the iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness of the home­bound, ac­cord­ing to the group’s web­site.

Or­ga­ni­za­tion pres­i­dent Bob Robertson over­sees about 150 vol­un­teers and eight routes through­out the county. Im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life for home­bound se­niors is an im­por­tant fo­cus, he said.

“We look for some­body who’s got a pas­sion to help a very vul­ner­a­ble sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion here in Calvert County,” said Robertson. “Our ul­ti­mate goal is to help the el­derly live more in­de­pen­dently. … That seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing, so that’s an im­por­tant group that as a so­ci­ety we’ve got to be aware of and look to­ward help­ing.”

Every year, Robertson said the or­ga­ni­za­tion ad­min­is­ters a sur­vey to get an idea of what clients think about the ser­vices.

“One of the other things that we ask in this sur­vey in­stru­ment is, ‘What do you think about the folks that are de­liv­er­ing the meals to you?’ Our clients are say­ing that they’re happy to see them every day,” he said. “It’s an­other ku­dos, I think, for the types of vol­un­teers that we get be­cause they care about the peo­ple that they’re help­ing and it shows through the feed­back that we’re get­ting from our clients.”

“By de­liv­er­ing the meals, we’re able to stop [by] in the mid­dle of the day and kind of be a friendly face and say hello,” said vol­un­teer Donna Deale, a driver and co-co­or­di­na­tor for the Hunt­ing­town route. “I think it’s prob­a­bly com­fort­ing for the fam­i­lies to know that some­body is there to check on them. … I look at my re­tire­ment as an op­por­tu­nity to pay it for­ward.”

As a for­mer em­ployee for the Fair­fax County Depart­ment of Fam­ily Ser­vices, Carolyn Cun­ning­ham said the per­sonal, so­ci­etal and eco­nomic ef­fects of a meals on wheels pro­gram pro­mote healthy ag­ing in place.

“You get to know them on a per­sonal ba­sis and you see needs be­yond de­liv­er­ing the meals,” Cun­ning­ham said. “It just gives you a re­ally good feel­ing to see peo­ple happy with a smile on their face. … I’m a firm be­liever that if you do give, you get good things back.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Mike Crev­el­ing hops in his truck at the Richard R. Clark Cen­ter on June 2 to be­gin his La Plata route. Crev­el­ing, a La Plata res­i­dent and re­tired bi­ol­ogy teacher from Oxon Hill High School, has been a vol­un­teer driver for about 10 years. His wife, Anne Crev­el­ing, re­tired in 1997 and has also vol­un­teered since then.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Jas­mine Lo­gan of Up­per Marl­boro smiles as she re­ceives a meal from Crev­el­ing on be­half of her great-great-rand­mother, who lives in La Plata.

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