Charity groups, volunteers deliver meals to at-risk seniors

Meals on Wheels volunteers Gail Mathis, left, and Sue Kast prepare to make their May 30 deliveries of meals to residents who are homebound or not able to make their own meals. [Independent Newsmedia/Rusty Bradshaw]

By Matt Roy
Independent Newsmedia

Tough economic times often take a disproportionate toll on retirees subsisting on fixed incomes, but charitable meal programs may help some Sun Cities seniors meet their basic needs.

The Sun Health Foundation and Sun City West Foundation support the Meals on Wheels program, which prepares and delivers meals to qualifying seniors through a partnership with Sun Health’s Grandview Health and Rehabilitation Center, 14515 W. Granite Valley Drive.

Evelyn Nelson, president of Meals on Wheels of Sun City West, coordinates the program, which delivers around 120 meals each week to 30 local clients. She said the program is aimed at those recovering from medical procedures, who need temporary help to meet basic needs.

“The vast majority of clients have had an operation where they cannot prepare meals for themselves,” Ms. Nelson stated by email. “There physician will write a prescription authorizing Meals on Wheels, explaining what they cannot eat, such as diabetic, low salt diet.”

Clients may self-refer by calling Meals on Wheels, but the doctor’s prescription is required to opt into the program. The meals are prepared in Grandview’s kitchens and delivered to homes Monday-Saturday by volunteers. The delivery includes two meals, one hot and one cold, at a cost of $10 per day to the recipient.

Leslie Longacre, clinical nutrition manager at Grandview, said the program provides peace of mind to clients and their families, ensuring proper nutrition and adding what she described as a second layer of comfort to those in the community.

“A lot of residents come here for short term rehab and then they get home, they are concerned about whether they can stand up and cook for themselves,” Ms. Longacre said. “I believe the importance of the program is providing at-risk seniors with quality nutrition at a low cost.”

Food is prepared by Grandview staff members at no cost to Meals on Wheels. The hot meal portion of the delivery is the same food served to the facility’s in-patient clients, including those in skilled rehab, long term care, assisted living and assisted living memory support.

The meals are designed to deliver high-protein nutrition and conform to lowsalt, low-cholesterol requirements. Though healthy, meals must be tasty and easy to reheat, Ms. Longacre said.

“We want it to taste good so it gets eaten,” she said. “In the clinical world, protein malnutrition is one of our greatest challenges and this program gives clients’ family members the peace of mind of knowing their loved ones will get a healthy lunch and dinner.”

Though limited in scope, the program relies on donations and volunteers from the community, Ms. Nelson stated.

“We need two different types of volunteers, coordinators and drivers,” she said. “Volunteers in all areas work every other month, so six months out of the year.”

Coordinators take care of paperwork and logistics, while the drivers take the meals to seniors’ homes, often developing friendships with those they serve, Ms. Nelson stated. Ms. Longacre agreed that a personal touch can go a long way to helping seniors in recovery stay safe.

“The other benefit is the daily check-in and clients can opt into however many days a week they want,” Ms. Longacre said.

When a volunteer delivers the meal each day, they can see if the client is thriving or may need additional resources. If they see a problem or the client does not answer the door, the delivery driver will contact the Sher-iff’s Posse of Sun City West to request a wellness check to ensure the client is safe or get them immediate help, she said.

As with most service agencies and programs in the community, donations keep the doors open. Sun City West’s Meals on Wheels program is no exception, Ms. Nelson said.

Those who need help or who wish to donate should call 623-455-7680.

Banner Olive Branch

In Sun City, the Sun Health Foundation recently received an anonymous donation of $85,000, which has been earmarked to expand services through the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center, 11250 N. 107th Ave., Sun City.

Ivy Glinski coordinates that program, which provides a variety of options for seniors in need in partnership with Sun Health Foundation, the Area Agency on Aging, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and 31 restaurants, grocery stores and coffee shops.

The program provides both a free and a fee-based home delivery service, as well as curb-side pickup. Other meals are served daily in a cafeteria setting at United Church of Sun City, 11250 N. 107th Ave., Sun City. The group also delivers care packages of sundries boxes of vegetables. Yet another facet of their program, called Taking it to the Streets, sees volunteers setting on a neighbor’sdriveway to serve lunch to a whole block.

Ms. Glinski said volunteers prepared and served 8,146 scratch-made meals for seniors in May and the recent donation will help the program reach more people.

“We are so grateful for this gift and we will use the money to increase the number of meals we serve” she said. “People may not realize how much of an impact this can make on those in our community who are hurting.”

As with the Sun City West delivery service, daily inhome contact with volunteers adds another level of care for at-risk seniors, according to Ms. Glinski.

“The people who go into the homes are really good at identifying problems,” she said. “Maybe the client hasn’t eaten their meal for a few days. Or it’s 85 degrees in the house and they don’t want to turn on the AC. We can also help with utility assistance.”

To donate, learn more about volunteering or refer a senior in need, call Ivy or Yolanda at 623-465-6000. Ivy or Yolanda.

Some remain unserved

Even with the programs available in the community, some seniors who may not qualify still find it difficult to make ends meet. Sun City resident Pat Ibarro said she and her husband, Pete, have been struggling for the past few years to stay in their home. Rising medical costs have crippled their budget and hurt their quality of life, she said.

“There’s too many people out here in poverty,” she said. “It wasn’t like this 20 years ago.”

She blames the cost of prescription drugs, in part, for their woes. Federal programs only cover a portion of the costs and supplemental insurance is prohibitively expensive, Ms. Ibarro said.

“I spend over $600 a month in medicine that Medicare didn’t cover. For me to get supplemental, that would be $320 a month just for me,” she said.

In a letter to the Sun City Independent, she detailed their struggles trying to remain independent and keep their home. She said they have not qualified for free meals services and the fee-based service they have used – provided by a different community agency – is more than they can afford.

“We want to try to stay in our condo,” Ms. Ibarro stated. “Our health has not been good and everyone wants money for meal delivery. We just don’t have it.”

She said another agency she contacted disqualified her from the free meal service because she is still able to drive. Despite the challenges, they will continue to seek assistance and hope to avoid being “sent to the home” for as long as possible, she said.

Matt Roy can be reached at 623876-2528 or mroy@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.