COA adapts meal programs to better serve older adults and families 

During fiscal year 2020, Council on Aging (COA) made changes within its nutrition programs to better meet the needs of older adults and their families in the region. 

Kinship meals bring peace of mind to older adults raising grandchildren 

The changes, in part, were the result of input COA received through its community needs assessment in 2018. Through the assessment, COA heard that more support was needed for older adults who have been impacted by the state’s opioid crisis – specifically, support for grandparents who are raising grandchildren. COA staff were also seeing the need firsthand.

 

“Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common for our clients to be the primary caregiver for one or more of their grandchildren,” said Ken Wilson, vice president of program operations at Council on Aging. “It’s difficult to imagine a homebound senior – who needs help with things like housekeeping, personal care and transportation – being responsible for a child, but that’s the reality these days and we wanted to find a way to support them.” 

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COA received approval from the Ohio Department of Aging and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Community Living to use funds from the National Family Caregiver Support Program (Title III-E) to provide “kinship” meals to children who are living with an older adult who receives federally-qualified home-delivered meals. This kinship meal model was touted as a model for other Area Agencies on Aging at the state’s fall 2019 advocacy conference. 

As a result, COA has been providing meals to children age 18 and under who reside full time with a Council on Aging client who is eligible for or already receiving home-delivered meals via the Elderly Services Program. The older adult must meet the eligibility requirements of the federal home-delivered meals program in order for the child to receive a meal. 

Feedback from older adults and the children who receive the meals has been positive. “Yay, my meals are here! I'm so excited to have more of my meals and the chocolate milk," was the greeting Debbie, a meals driver from the North College Hill Senior Center, received when she delivered a kinship meal.  

“These meals will add another layer of security for older adults and the children in their care,” Wilson said. “They will improve the whole family’s quality of life.” 

During Fiscal Year 2020, COA provided 2,138 kinship meals to children in the care of an eligible older adult. 

Program changes address special nutritional and dietary needs of older adults 

Council on Aging made changes to ensure home-delivered meals meet the nutritional and special dietary needs of the older adults who rely on them. In Nov. 2019, COA contracted meal providers expanded options for certain types of therapeutic meals to clients who have a medically-documented need. Therapeutic meals are special meals that meet the nutritional or dietary needs of clients with certain medical conditions.

 

When Council on Aging sought bids from qualified providers for the home-delivered meal service in the Elderly Services Program in 2019, Jennifer Lake, COA’s nutrition business partner and a registered dietician, worked to make sure the special meals were part of the required service specifications.

 

“Nutrition is an important part of aging – and staying healthy,” Lake said. “With these changes, we can now provide meals that are appropriate for clients with a variety of medical issues ranging from diabetes to lactose intolerance.” 

Clients can now receive the following types of meals: diabetic, cardiac, renal, lactose free, gluten free, dysphagia and mechanically-altered meals (most of these meals require a physician’s order). The meals are also available to children who receive a kinship meal. 

In 2020, Council on Aging delivered 1.8 million meals to nearly 10,000 individuals in southwestern Ohio.