How did you become interested in this work?
When I started working as a controller for the local program that runs senior centers and provides congregate meals, I actually had no idea that the remainder of my working life would be spent in senior nutrition. That was 38 years ago. It only took one trip to a senior center for me to become committed to the cause.
What drives your passion?
My passion is fired by others. Each day I am so grateful for the volunteers who devote their time and energy to deliver meals as well as the donors who freely give of their resources to pay for meals. The real fire comes from the people we serve and the incredible lives they have lived. From previous volunteers to housewives, accountants, ballet dancers, military personnel, a federal judge, and one who participated in the Olympics, the people are what keep me going.
Does your organization offer any programs other than meal delivery? If so, what are they?
Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County offers several programs beyond home-delivered meals that are designed to help clients remain at home in a safe and healthy environment.
- Case Management is the entry into all programs and services offered by our organization. When service is requested, a case manager makes an in-home visit to fully assess the client’s needs, home environment, access to community services, and resources available to support their needs. This intense process provides a roadmap to what is needed and how we can help this individual remain in their own home in a safe and healthy environment.
- Nutrition Counseling assists clients better manage chronic health conditions by teaching them to make better food choices and setting achievable goals for self-monitoring.On staff registered dietitians work directly with the clients in their home to better understand the environment and situations that may be preventing the client from complying with their health and nutrition needs. The goal of this program is to improve health status and reduce doctor and hospital visits.
- Friend to Friend is a magical program that matches volunteers with lonely and socially isolated home-delivered-meals clients needing interaction beyond the daily wellness check. Carefully matched volunteers commit to visiting with their client at least one hour each week. Friendships that have developed through this program are heart-warming.
- HomeMeds is an evidence-based program where a client’s medication, supplements, vitamins, etc.are entered into a national database and compared for any drug interactions and duplications. Pharmacy techs on staff process this data and work directly with a consulting pharmacist who reconciles any concerns with the client and their physician. Over half of our clients have “red flags” that must be reviewed and reconciled. The goal of this program is to protect the clients from adverse drug interactions resulting in fewer falls and hospital visits.
- Client Assistance is a wrap around program that works to meet health and safety related needs for clients where there are no community resources and the client cannot meet the need on his or her own. Examples of what is provided by this program include incontinent supplies, minor medical equipment, minor home repairs, air conditioners, heaters, toiletries, supplemental groceries, lift chairs, hospital beds, utility assistance, etc. The goal of this program is to enable homebound clients to remain in their home in a safe and healthy environment.
What is the biggest challenge in your work?
I like to think of our work as a huge quilt or puzzle made of many pieces, large and small. Finding all the right pieces within our community of volunteers, donors and funders to make sure there are no holes in that quilt is my biggest challenge. When there is a hole not filled, there is a possibility of someone not being fed and that is just not acceptable to me.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
In business –Those with the gold make the rules, and Listen first, speak later; In life –start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
Was there a client, volunteer, or poignant moment in your work that has had a great impact on you?
There have been so many clients, volunteers and donors over the years that have touched my heart with their reasons for needing, delivering, or funding meals. Home delivered meals spans all demographics, geography and decades so the people involved at whatever level include every walk of life, every age group, every socio-economic sector of the populations. That diversity has always been amazing to me and I think that has helped me be a better person and more effective in my work. On a personal level, the opportunity to represent senior nutrition on a national scale during my term as President of Meals On Wheels America provided me with a perspective larger than the knowledge of my local program. This enabled me to assist other programs and mentor new professionals by connecting resources to improve services to the frail elderly in other communities.