Making Mealtimes Fun
Joe was an 86-year-old man who had always been the life of the party. He was gregarious, strong-willed and independent. For a long time, no one realized Joe was having memory problems, as he always had a great joke or funny story to tell. But, one day, Joe showed up at church in the middle of the night, confused and scared. A few weeks later, he was found wandering in a parking lot, unable to find his car. Clearly, Joe was struggling. His out-of-state son intervened and set up county services. Meals on Wheels were delivered each day, and a social worker visited to assure that Joe was safe in his home. All seemed well, until Joe arrived at church on a Thursday at midnight, wondering why no one was there.
The church reached out to me for help. After spending some quality time with Joe, I discovered that every meal that had been delivered was still stacked high in Joe’s cupboard, unopened. He had put the meals away and simply forgotten about them.
Joe's resulting poor diet was affecting every aspect of his life - his mood, his ability to focus, his sleep and his overall health. For Joe, mealtime was always a social activity. If no one was around, he had no initiative to eat. Church members seemed eager to help but were unsure what to do.
So, I organized and trained this eager group of mealtime buddies to keep Joe healthy and engaged. Every evening, one or two volunteers would visit Joe, dinner in hand, to enjoy a meal with him. Often, they stayed for after-dinner games and puzzles. Joe ate heartily and loved having an audience for his stories. Over time, his health improved and his nighttime escapades ended.
Joe’s quality of life was dramatically enhanced. While providing meals, volunteers were also able to report any concerns or issues to me, to assure that Joe's ongoing needs were met. Volunteer meals and care management continued for more than a year. Ultimately, Joe moved to a residential facility closer to his son. But, the year with his mealtime buddies was one of his best!