According to new research, Meals on Wheels American can do more than delivering hot food to isolated seniors and can help in serving as an early warning system for older people with declining health.
Researchers trained Meals on Wheels drivers in San Diego County and Guernsey County in Ohio how to use a mobile app to alert care coordinators if they had any concerns or noticed any change in a senior’s condition. And then the care coordinators followed up with seniors to offer support and help them to get in touch with health and community services.
During the 12-month study period, the drivers reported 429 alerts for 189 clients.
Some of the most frequent alerts included:
- changes in health (56%)
- self-care or personal safety (12%)
- mobility (11%)
According to the researchers, “Follow-ups on the alerts led to 132 referrals, with most for self-care (33%), health (17%) and care management services (17%).”
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
West Health Institute and Meals on Wheels are planning to expand their research program to 30 Meals on Wheels sites across the United States.
Chief Medical Officer at West Health Institute Dr. Zia Agha said, “By collaborating with Meals on Wheels America, we’ve developed a safe, cost-effective and scalable program to preemptively identify and address concerns that too often result in deterioration of a senior’s medical condition or pose a major safety risk.”
“We’re excited learnings from this research program are now being implemented across the country within Meals on Wheels America’s expanded program that will positively impact as many seniors as possible,” added Dr. Agha. Section Editor with the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Dr. Michael Malone wrote, “As health care systems struggle to address the social determinants of health, this innovative Meals on Wheels model may provide part of the solution.”