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Coast Hills

These Wheels Carry Much More Than Meals

by Amanda Hollingworth
March 13, 2019
Representatives from Meals on Wheels in Santa Maria accept a $500 donation from CoastHills Credit Union

Meals on Wheels is more than just a service that delivers balanced meals to our elderly, disabled, and home-bound neighbors.

The team of volunteer drivers do friendly health and wellness checks on their clients, making sure that everything is OK. Sometimes, the Meals on Wheels driver is the only face the client sees all day, so that little check in can literally be lifesaving.

Colleen Sinclair, Director of Meals on Wheels Santa Maria Valley, calls what they do nutritional intervention.

Recently she noticed a strange pattern with a client’s menu choices. Like clockwork, he would switch between the chopped and pureed options.

“We care. I care,” Colleen says of the clients they serve, so she called to him to make sure everything was okay. It turned out he was struggling with dentures that didn’t fit quite right. “He had lost 40 pounds. Over dentures.”

Dedicated to going the extra mile, Colleen reached out to her contacts in the medical community and was able to get that client an appointment to get fitted for dentures within twenty-four hours.  

She relates another recent case of a woman who was showing all the classic signs of dementia — anger, fear, and paranoia. She lived alone, and although her neighbors tried to help her, she was convinced they were trying to poison her. Colleen’s team put in a call to Adult Protective Services and got her in the Meals on Wheels rotation.

Shockingly, the client’s dementia symptoms seemed to disappear within five weeks. It turns out, long-term low blood sugar mimics dementia. With access to regular nutritious meals, her memory returned and she’s doing well on her own again.

Meals on Wheels has served the Santa Maria Valley since 1971. Today, they serve 77 clients, 5 days a week, adding up to 18,000 meals each year. Many of their clients only need them for a short-term basis, as they’re transitioning at home from a hospital stay rather than being assigned to the Extended Care Facility. Other clients are referred over from Adult Protective Services, social workers, or from family members.

Thanks to a long-standing partnership with Dignity Health, Meals on Wheels operates out of an office in the Extended Care Facility, which also donates their kitchen and prepares the meals themselves. Because of this partnership, they are the only meal service that is able to provide medically specific diets. In fact, they offer 20 different diets — from diabetic to pureed, and everything in between.

Meals are provided on a sliding scale, from $0 to $5 and include a protein, starch, and vegetable. Because they don’t receive state funding, clients aren’t restricted to a certain age range or income level. They are able to provide specialized meals to those who need them regardless of income.

Meals on Wheels is truly a community effort and relies on donations. CoastHills’ recent $500 Community Action Sponsorship donation will translate into 87 meals, which will cover more than a day’s need. “You really need to support your local community nonprofit,” says Colleen, “You really are getting the most for your dollar.” Meals on Wheels is also always on the lookout for volunteer drivers, and those interested in learning more can contact them at (805) 938-1200 or info@mealsonwheelssmv.org.

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