A recent Screening and Intervention Study conducted for the North Okanagan Health Region showed that 59% of (elderly) clients surveyed were found to be at a nutritional risk. Research has also shown that nutritional risk is the best single predictor of the number of a) physician visits, b) hospital emergency room visits, and c) whether or not the individual has been hospitalized in the previous year. It is a causative factor in between 40% adn 59% of hospital admissions in persons aged seventy plus.
In plain English, this means that 59% of seniors who have visited their doctor, or were admitted to an emergency ward, or have been hospital patients last year, are undernourished. The conclusion is that undernourished people are much more prone to illness than those who eat their three square meals a day. Indeed, one wonders why this should surprise anyone.
On the other side of the coin is the report by H.M.O. (Health Maintenance Organization) in the U.S., which states that by "attending to mutual concerns", as in making sure the patients eat properly, the patients admitted to the hospital, those who were malnourished had an average length of stay that was five to six days longer than those of people who were well nourished.
How it comes about that, in countries as rich as Canada and America 59% of senior citizens, our "Golden Agers", who have consulted a doctor, or been hospital patients - for whatever reason - can be undernourished, is beyond comprehension. However, it is well to remember that, where there is a need, there can be a solution. Consider the Meals on Wheels program.
This program had its inception in England, during WW2. Many people who lost their homes through enemy air raids, and were thus deprived of their hot meals, were supplied with meals by the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. Because these volunteers also provided refresh-ments in canteens to servicemen during the war, the name "Meals on Wheels" was coined by those who were fed. The name stuck and, in the 1960's the idea of this service came to North America. In 1965, St. Christopher House in Toronto began the first Canadian Meals on Wheels 1966 other Toronto Churches followed suit, each filling the need by delivering on subsequent days.
In 1969, Meals on Wheels arrived in the Okanagan and, with the help of sponsors and volunteers, the program expanded until now over 2,000 meals are delivered each month in Kelowna alone. Who can receive meals in the MOW program? Marion Bremner, the Volunteer and Meals Co-ordinator of Kelowna's program, lists senior citizens, disabled persons, the chronically and acutely ill, as well as people who are newly released from hospital. Ms Bremner, also happens to be the Lt. Governor of the Pacific Northwest District of Kiwanis , which is involved in sponsorship through its Kelowna "High Noon" Club. She administers the program on a very frugal budget of a mere $130,000 per year, provided by funds from the Interior Health Association, and funds from charitable gaming and bingo revenues. As a Kiwanis executive, former President of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce anc Council Member, Bremner is an old hand at motivating volunteers such as the 75 people who work at least one shift per week, delivering hot and nutritious lunches consisting of soup, entree and dessert, six days a week, every week of the year.
All hot meals are prepared in the kitchens of the Cottenwoods and Brookhaven facilities, and frozen meals come from the Penticton hospital. In all kitchens, health concerns receive special attention through a menu which provides several choices of diabetic, renal, and heart smart diets. Just about all those volunteers, let it be understood, work without compensation, use their own vehicles and pay for their fuel, and even through a small compensation of 25 cents per kilometer is offered, most don't accept it. What motivates them? says Iris Cornelson, "I have smiles and friendly greetings of our clients. People helping people is what it is all about". And there' Gertie Johnston, who has been at it since February 1969. "I know the meals are more than nutritious because I always pack in a little kindness". This carring attitude is reflected in another important aspect of the MOW program: The delivery visits provide volunteers with a glimpse of their stay-at -home-clients' well-being. If anything is amiss, the report to the Co-ordintator, who may then contact relatives or, if necessary, a physician.
Dinners at Home
This meal service has grown out of, and becaome part of, MOW. It provides the same nutritious meals to people who can not cook for themselves but are otherwise not impaired. They may, or may not be seniors. They may live in conditions which do not offer access to cooking facilities. Or, they may simply, have no idea of how to prepare a meal. It happens. Dinners at Home offers the same menu choices as MOW, are prepared in the same kitchens and are packed by the same volunteers. The only difference between Meals on Wheels and Dinners at Home stems from the fact that the clients of Dinners at Home, or D@H, may come to the Society premises to pick up their meal, even though home delivery is available also. The basic difference between the two programs is that the clients fo Meals on Wheels all get the same meal, subject to their dietary needs, whereas Dinner @ Home clients may choose from a prescribed menu. Wow. Why do I keep cooking? Why does anybody?"
For more information, to volunteer or subscribe, you can call the following numbers:
Kamloops (250) 554-3134
Vernon (250) 545-9288
Kelowna (250) 763-2424
Keremeos (250) 499-3028