Meals on Wheels Tackles Increased Demand, Health Risks, Isolation

Meals on Wheels Tackles Increased Demand, Health Risks, Isolation

(Lara Mossa, May 3, 2020)

Bloomfield Twp, MI – Much has changed for the Bloomfield Township Senior Services system, but one thing that hasn’t changed is their determination to provide nutritious, balanced meals to elderly and home-bound residents through their Meals on Wheels Program.

Like similar programs throughout Oakland County and across the county, the demand has drastically increased as more people self isolate in their homes to avoid the COVID-19 virus.

“I think it’s important, because a lot of the older residents in the township – many of them live alone or they do not have family in town. They have underlying health conditions. It was scary for them. They were concerned about going out to buy groceries,” said Mary Osborne, Nutrition Coordinator for BTSS. “The biggest thing it has done has given them peace of mind. They know they are going to have delivered nutritious meals every week. They don’t have to worry about having all the stuff from the grocery store to prepare meals.”

For more than 40 years, Bloomfield Township residents over the age of 62, who are home-bound, have been able to sign up for meals to be delivered to their house. Previously, there were about 20 to 30 clients who received an average of 100 meals a week, Osborne said. Now, since mid-March when the state mandated people try to stay home, Meals on Wheels delivers more than 200 meals every week.

Meals on Wheels used to provide fresh meals every day. Volunteers would deliver the hot meals and visit with the residents while there. Now, BTSS is providing frozen meals once a week along with the usual sides and beverages. The volunteers alert the clients that they are there but are no longer able to socialize with them.

In addition, the program is no longer using volunteers. Instead, staff members are delivering the meals every Monday. They use safety precautions such as wearing gloves when they are handling the meals and having their temperatures taken before deliveries.

Dr. Susan Bellefleur has been a volunteer and transportation driver for BTSS for more than five years. She is one of the staff members delivering food.

“Everybody likes to be useful,” she said. “I like that I’m helping out my community, and I like the seniors,” said the retired pediatrician. “They’re really appreciative.”

The food service includes a wide variety of meals that range from pasta to fish and beef stroganoff. Each one comes with sides such as fruit, bread or rolls, and a beverage.

“The elderly residents are probably the most at risk from complications of Coronavirus,” Bellefleur said. “Having the meals delivered decreases the exposure that would happen if they had to go out. We really increased the number of people who are participating.”

The program is funded by the participants as well as some money through community block grants.

“I think it’s a great service,” Osborne said. “In normal times, when someone first becomes unable to leave their home, it’s so important to have someone coming out there every day to see them and that they’re getting a nutritious meal. It’s an essential program for older residents once they become less independent.”

Besides the meal deliveries, BTSS is still providing other services including medical transportation and reassurance calls. Volunteers who previously did deliveries still check on elderly residents with daily phone calls.  The Senior Center itself is closed to prevent the spread of the virus, so the phone calls are particularly important for people to feel connected.

For more information on volunteering or signing up for services, go to https://www.bloomfieldtwp.org/Government/Services/Senior-Services.aspx or call (248) 723-3500.

Those not in Bloomfield Township can search for Meals on Wheels in their area at the Meals on Wheels website.

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