By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- A program many seniors returning home from hospitalizations rely on to help them through the first weeks of recovery is in crisis mode.
The Senior Resource Association's emergency meals on wheels program, funded entirely by grants from local philanthropic organizations and private donors, only has enough funds to continue feeding the more than 200 seniors in the program through October, staff members said.
Each meal costs $7.86 and includes a hot, nutritious meal, a case manager to oversee the senior's dietary needs and a friendly volunteer checking up on them daily, caring about how they are doing, said Laura Roberts, nutrition director for the Senior Resource Association.
"We've got a little bit of funds to get us through October, but we really rely on the community to open their hearts and take care of our elderly," Ms. Roberts said. "The emergency meals on wheels program is for seniors released from the hospital or a rehabilitation center back to their own homes to continue their recovery."
Many times what happens to seniors is they go home with doctor's order to not drive, or they have physical handicaps that prevent them from functioning normally in their own home, therefore prohibiting them from shopping for and making their own nutritious food.
"Maybe they've been in the hospital two or three weeks and when they get home, all the food they had in their fridge is bad and needs to be thrown out. They can't go to the store to get more, so they end up getting poor nutrition," Ms. Roberts said.
"Good nutrition is vital for healing properly, but what happens is the seniors don't get that and they end up back in the hospital."
The national average of hospital readmissions within 30 days of being released is 20 percent. For clients in the emergency meals on wheels program, the percentage drops to 4.5 percent, a Senior Resource Association press release said.
The average cost of re-admittance to the hospital is $2,875 per day, the press release said.
The emergency feeding program began in 2009. The first year, there were 716 meals provided to 23 local seniors. During the 2012-13 fiscal year, there were 213 clients that were served 5,676 meals.
"I find most of the clients are very grateful for us providing the food and for the daily check by the volunteers. Some people live alone and they get nervous, so seeing a friendly face come in is good," Ms. Roberts said.
For more information about the emergency meals on wheels program or the Senior Resource Association, call (772) 569-0760 or visit www.seniorresourceassociation.org.