VNA of Texas
How Meals on Wheels is serving Dallas-area seniors in the COVID-19 crisis
by Allison Hatfield | March 19, 2020
In partnership with The Dallas Morning News, FWD>DFW introduces a series about serving D-FW, including its most at-risk populations. In this video, which first aired on Facebook Live, journalist Ron Corning talks with VNA of Texas President and CEO Katherine Krause, VNA of Texas Managing Director of Development and Communications Jennifer Atwood, and others about the challenges that the organization has serving clients during the COVID-19 crisis.
VNA operates Meals on Wheels, which supports homebound seniors, who are more susceptible to the disease and more likely to die from an infection. These are people who rely on the group to nourish not only their bodies, but also their spirits with near-daily visits. VNA’s hospice organization extends care to those at the end of life. Current conditions have Krause, Atwood, and the whole VNA team asking themselves how they can continue to serve the people who need them in safe and innovative ways.
Real-life hugs banned, virtual hugs OK
Though store shelves have been laid bare from Fort Worth to Frisco, the United States is not suffering a food shortage, and it’s important to know that VNA has not seen a disruption in the food supply chain. What’s more, all volunteers have been thoroughly trained on food-handling safety and provided with hand sanitizer.
“My main concern is making sure that when we deliver the meal — which we are still doing 100% — when we deliver the hot meal, that we maintain the distance between our clients that we’re delivering to and our volunteers,” Krause says.
That means no more hugs when volunteers drop off food. And that’s the hardest part, says Atwood, though social distancing is critically important for everyone’s safety.
However, the organization does have a contingency plan for what Atwood calls “virtual hugs.” Through the VNA app, which volunteers use to access routes each day, they can also access a client’s phone number. Should deliveries become impossible for whatever reason, the volunteers can call the people on their routes to check in, make sure they’re well and let them know they care.
This is important because social isolation lends itself to depression, and depression can exacerbate physical problems. To qualify for Meals on Wheels, an individual must be homebound, “and usually the Meals on Wheels driver is the only person they see that day,” Krause says.
Hospice caregivers take precautions
VNA’s hospice operation is the oldest one in Texas, and VNA has measures in place to protect both staff and patients during the pandemic. The group is staggering staff schedules to limit the number of people in the office at once, and both patients and staff are clinically screened before a staff member enters a patient home, Krause says. VNA chaplains and social workers are not being allowed in nursing facilities at this time.
How you can help
The need is only going to grow over the coming weeks and months, Atwood says. And the organization needs help to feed North Texas senior citizens one meal a day, six days a week. With the capacity to feed 12,000 people per day, it requires a constant flow of both money and manpower.
You cannot donate food to Meals on Wheels, but you can donate money. If you are working from home right now, Corning points out that “one less latte a day could feed a senior one meal.” You can see options for giving at vnatexas.org/give.
Another way to help is to volunteer — either for Meals on Wheels or hospice. If you’re among those whose job for the moment is on pause, and you have some free time, you can sign up and complete volunteer training online at volunteer.vnatexas.org.
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