Study: Meals on Wheels delivers cooked food, companionship and safety checks

Study: Meals on Wheels delivers cooked food, companionship and safety checks

How is the elder you're caring for getting their meals?

When interviewing those involved in elder care for Lightpost, the USA TODAY's new website devoted to helping people through big life changes like caring for an aging loved one, we came across several people who raved about the effectiveness and importance of Meals on Wheels. The organization delivers meals to seniors in need, specifically those who face or are at risk of facing hunger. Each state has its own chapter; we recommend reaching out to yours if you need assistance caring for a loved one — whether locally or from afar.

Meals on Wheels started in the United Kingdom in 1943 but came to the U.S. as Meals on Wheels America in 1954, making it just over 50 years old. In the U.S., it operates through a network of more than 5,000 independently-run local programs. (Find your local program.)

In time with the anniversary, the Brown School of Public Health conducted an AARP Foundation-funded research study to learn about the mindset and demographics of elders who are involved with their services: those who use their daily traditional meal delivery, those who get once-weekly frozen delivery, and also those who are on the waiting list.

The study found that those who use Meals on Wheels...

- Are “significantly more vulnerable” compared to a sample of aging Americans. Those on the waiting list for Meals on Wheels waiting lists reported poorer health, had mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, reported falls or other mobility limitations, need help shopping and cooking, and have health hazards outside and inside of their house.

- Those who received daily-delivered meals experienced the greatest improvements in “health and quality of life,” compared to those on wait-lists or those getting frozen meals. Those who got daily meals were likely to show improvement in mental health and self-rated health, reduced rate of falls, improvement in feelings of loneliness and isolation, and decrease in worrying about being able to stay in their homes.

- Daily-delivery recipients reported greater benefits than those who get frozen meals. It’s not all about the food — participants who got meals delivered to their homes daily reported that the meals made them feel safer, have more human contact and suffer less from loneliness. They also reported that it helped them eat healthier.

- Those who lived alone and who got daily meal delivery were more likely to say they worried less about having to leave their home.

Does Meals on Wheels seem like an option for you or someone you’re caring for? Check it out. And check out other resources for issues pertaining to caring for an aging loved on with Lightpost, the USA TODAY Network’s free step-by-step guide.



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