Monday, 17 April 2017

Meals on Wheels is

appealing for funds from the federal government to keep running - at least in this state. I hope they get it because it will save money in the long run.
Meals on Wheels can be the difference between someone staying in their own home and going into a nursing home. The latter is much more expensive.
When we first moved into this house thirty years ago an elderly couple lived next door. At first they were still able, indeed very able. Just before winter each year they would hitch their ancient caravan to their almost as ancient car and head "up north" along with so many other older people. They would stay for the winter and return in spring.
Then came the year they didn't do it. It was just too far for the old man to drive and his wife didn't drive at all. That was the start of the long downhill slide. Two years later the wife became really ill for a while. He struggled to feed them but said nothing to anyone. Then, quite by accident, I discovered they were having problems. He asked me how you cooked something - and admitted he wasn't "much of a cook".  I gave the help he asked for but things got worse.
Because he could still drive his car to the shops and do a certain amount of preparation they weren't considered eligible for Meals on Wheels. One of their children lived several hundred kilometres away. Another lived in London. The third was estranged from the entire family.  There was no help there. They weren't church goers. They didn't belong to any organisations. They had no support network.
I started to provide the occasional meal, trying to do it in a way which wouldn't offend. 
The doctor called one day because the husband simply couldn't get his wife dressed or into the car. I met the doctor as he was coming out of their house as I was about to go in. The husband introduced me and said I was giving them meals. A short discussion ensued. What about Meals on Wheels? Not eligible? Nonsense! 
They were on the list within a week. Five days a week a good hot meal arrived on their doorstep. At weekends I supplied the two remaining main meals and the husband would pay me for the ingredients. All I did was cook enough for two extra. It was really no extra work.
They lasted in their own home for almost two more years that way and only moved into a nursing home when the husband's eyesight meant he could no longer drive his beloved car.  I met the doctor a second time towards the end of their stay at home. We agreed that Meals on Wheels had kept them there and that they were much happier because of it.
I've organised Meals on Wheels for other elderly people on their own since then - in conjunction with their doctors. In every instance it has allowed them to go on living at home. One man only needed them for a short time while he convalesced but it allowed him to return home safely. Someone checked on him five days a week. I only needed to check at weekends for the seven weeks he need  help. He's back to helping others now.
I know other people who have organised Meals on Wheels for elderly neighbours. It is so much more dignified to pay, however little, than to depend on neighbours who may not always find it convenient however willing they are.
So, I hope the funding comes through. It's a marvellous service because it isn't just about feeding someone. It's about keeping them where they belong - in their own homes. 

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