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Meals on Wheels also helps feed the pets of low-income seniors or disabled

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Delivered meals help seniors and those with disabilities stay in their homes and also allow seniors and people with disabilities to keep their pets well-fed and healthier. Meals on Wheels also brings pet foods to low-income seniors or those with disabilities who can't afford other ways of obtaining food, according to the article, "Meals on Wheels helps feed pets of seniors, disabled." Thanks to partnerships between the program for low-income seniors and pet groups across the country, fewer people and pets are going hungry.

The more states spend on home-delivered meals under the Older Americans Act, the more likely they are to help people who don't need nursing home care to stay in their homes, according to a newly published Brown University statistical analysis of a decade of spending and nursing home resident data.

"Despite efforts to rebalance long-term care, there are still many nursing home residents who have the functional capacity to live in a less restrictive environment," wrote gerontology researchers Kali Thomas and Vincent Mor in the article published online Dec. 3, 2012 in the journal Health Services Research. "States that have invested in their community-based service networks, particularly home-delivered meals, have proportionally fewer of these people than do those states that have not." You also may wish to check out the December 4, 2012 news release, "Delivered meals help seniors stay in their homes."

Nationwide in 2009, 12.6 percent of nursing home residents were considered "low-care," meaning they did not need much of the suite of services that a nursing home provides. That proportion had declined from 17.9 percent in 2000 because of a variety of efforts, including OAA programs as well as Medicaid-sponsored home- and community-based services (HCBS).

Percentages in home-delivered meals every year vary widely between the states

A major reason for that state-to-state variation turns out to be the difference that home-delivered meals can make. The researchers wrote that their analysis boils down to this ratio: For every $25 per year per older adult above the national average that states spend on home-delivered meals, they could reduce their percentage of low-care nursing home residents compared to the national average by 1 percentage point.

Thomas and Mor's calculations didn't merely associate each state's meals spending with its percentage of low-care residents in nursing homes. They also statistically controlled for the overall decline over time and a wide variety of factors that might also have affected the rates.

Those factors included state spending on Medicaid HCBS, as well as a variety of long-term care market pressures, such as excess capacity or nursing home reimbursement rates, that could create incentives for nursing homes in different states to pursue or forgo relatively profitable low-care residents.

The data included state spending on OAA programs and performance information from each state between 2000 and 2009 as well as variety of public health and nursing home data sources compiled by Brown University's Shaping Long-Term Care in America Project. In all, 16,030 nursing homes were included in the research.

Some seniors anticipate hearing the bell ring with the food delivery as the only person they'll see each week

After all the analysis, home-based meals, which served more than 868,000 people in fiscal 2010, emerged as the only statistically significant factor among OAA programs that affected state-to-state differences in low-care nursing home population. Home-delivered meals account for the bulk of OAA spending.

Other factors keeping low-care residents out of nursing homes in some states included a high proportion of residents receiving skilled nursing care, which provides nursing homes with higher revenues. Factors that drove more low-care residents of some states into homes included high nursing home capacity and a high percentage of residents with not-so-lucrative Medicaid funding.

Meals mean a lot

Lead author of the study, Thomas said that as a Rhode Island Meals on Wheels volunteer and the granddaughter of a Meals on Wheels beneficiary, she was not surprised to see that the program has such a significant impact, according to the December 4, 2012 news release, "Delivered meals help seniors stay in their homes."

Until her grandmother died in October, 2012 she was able to live at home despite suffering from macular degeneration that made it impossible for her to cook

"My 98-year-old granny was able to remain at home, independent in her house until she died, and we have always, even before I did this research, attributed that to Meals on Wheels," Thomas said, according to the news release. "She lived four hours away from any family and refused to leave her house. We had comfort in knowing that every day someone was in her house to see how things are."

Drivers, after all, not only bring food every day but also observe the condition of their clients: Safety checks

When delivering pet food along with food for the human, do drivers observe the condition of the pets as well as the humans? If the elderly beneficiary doesn't answer a delivery, drivers report that. The volunteers therefore provide food and a "safety check" for many older adults.

For retired journalist and state worker Bill McNamara, 90, of Warwick, R.I., Meals on Wheels helps because he and his wife Catherine, also 90, have developed arthritis in recent years that makes food preparation too difficult. Since 2009 they have lived in an in-law unit of their son's house, but because his son and daughter-in-law both work, McNamara said, asking them to prepare all their meals would be a significant burden.

Instead, Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island provides that service, McNamara said, according to the news release. The food is great and the drivers work hard to ensure consistent and timely delivery, he said. They even faithfully worked around the recent obstacle of the road being closed for a time. "We feel it's even better than we would have anticipated," McNamara explained in the news release. "We look forward to hearing the bell ring."

For many seniors, especially those who don't live with such a supportive family like the McNamaras, research shows that meal delivery is what allows them to remain where the ring of the doorbell is for their own door. The National Institute on Aging (grant PO1AG027296) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (grant 5T32HS000011) supported the research. You also may wish to check out the article, "Marin Humane Society seeking donations for less fortunate pets."

Meals on Wheels also delivers pet food along with food for the human in the apartment or home

If Meals on Wheels didn't deliver donated dog food, Sherry Scott of San Diego says her golden retriever Tootie would be eating the pasta, riblets and veggie wraps meant for her. But thanks to partnerships between the program for low-income seniors and pet groups across the country, fewer people and pets are going hungry, reports the news article, "Meals on Wheels helps feed pets of seniors, disabled."

Too many seniors used to give the food delivered by Meals on Wheels to their pets instead of eating the food themselves. They had to share their food because there was nothing to feed the dog or cat.

When Meals on Wheels volunteers noticed a growing number of clients giving their food away to their pets, they started working with shelters and other pet groups to add free pet food to their meal deliveries

You can donate money or pet food to various programs or be a volunteer. When pet food was added to the deliveries for the pets, along with human food for the seniors, the older adults began to eat better instead of giving most of the food to their dogs or cats.

There are other organizations that deliver pet food to needy pet owners. Meals on Wheels is just one organization serving people who are poor, disabled or elderly, but it has a vast reach. Meals on Wheels also has teamed up with other groups that solicit, pick up, pack and get the animal chow to Meals on Wheels or another agency that donates food.

Various agencies also bring pet food to nursing homes, senior centers or community centers

Those who qualify for Meals on Wheels or similar programs are almost always eligible for a free pet food program. Pets often offer emotional support or other services to seniors. Some people get exercise by strolling with the dog instead of sitting all day. Pets can also help with depression. You also can check out the various nonprofits such as LifeCare Alliance, that provides meals and other services to low-income seniors.

In many instances, seniors begin to feed their pets first, sometimes before they feed themselves. When the food can't stretch for both human and pet, in many cases, the pets eat first. Numerous seniors with disabilities who also are on a fixed low income may not be able to afford food for their pets and themselves. That's where the nonprofits help, for example, by starting a pet food giveaway program. Check out the services of LifeCare Alliance.

You have a rising number of seniors who never see anyone besides their Meals on Wheels driver who comes once a week to deliver meals.

Isolated people don't have to live in isolated areas. You can find seniors in private homes or apartments living a few blocks from supermarkets and shopping malls who can't get to the store due to low mobility. For example, nondrivers who aren't able to physically walk and push a utility cart with groceries up and back.

In some areas there are no sidewalks, just heavy traffic whizzing by, and seniors with disabilities aren't able to walk in a water-filled, muddy curb. Some aren't able to manipulate wheelchairs while dodging fast-moving traffic in areas with no sidewalks.

There also are seniors on special diets such as no added salt, no added fats, reversal diets that require flax seed meal instead of oils, diets without added sugar, diets put through a blender for those without teeth that fit well, and other situations.

Pet food is delivered to low-income seniors usually getting Meals on Wheels human food to eat

Some people who get deliveries from Meals on Wheels or other organizations may not be an older adult, but may have disabilities, for example HIV and other health problems where the person can't get to a food market or can't prepare meals. Others live on tiny incomes. Those with pets appreciate the free food delivered to them for human and pet, such as a companion dog.

In one area, Meals on Wheels in San Diego partnered with Helen Woodward Animal Center 15 years ago to add pet food drop-offs. Woodward had started one of the first pet food programs in the nation in 1984, called AniMeals, which expanded its reach when the agencies partnered, according to the article, "Meals on Wheels helps feed pets of seniors, disabled." You have various programs in different states. For example, AniMeals delivers food for cats as well as dogs. According to the news article, it takes 40 volunteers to collect 3,000 pounds of donated dry food and about 3,200 cans of wet food for dogs and cats each month.

Donations of pet food are important

That's why donations are so important. Also you have people who have stored large, unopened, sealed bags from the stores full of pet food, in good condition. Sometimes a person loses his dog, but still has all those stored bags of food not yet opened and new enough to be safe for a pet to eat. Those types of donations help feed the pets of low income seniors who aren't able to buy food for their pet companions.

For example, Banfield Charitable Trust grants, offered since 2007 has given funding to a social services department in North Carolina. And LifeSpan Resources in New Albany, Indiana is a nonprofit providing information and assistance to seniors and the disabled, as it tries to get its program up and running, according to the news article, "Meals on Wheels helps feed pets of seniors, disabled."

If you want to donate pet food to be delivered with human food when the driver visits seniors with pets to feed, check out the site, PALS (Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors) - Meals On Wheels. Or see, Meals on Wheels.



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