‘It’s not just about the meal’: Delivery service provides contact for rural elderly

Farmers and other people living in rural parts of the country were last week delighted to get their meals on wheels delivered to their doors, as normal, despite being snowbound, thanks to the assistance of the army, Civil Defence, and other groups.

In Co. Longford, the army was called out to help ensure meals were delivered as usual.

Elaine Keogh, manager of Co. Longford Social Services, said that the army 4X4s provided invaluable assistance in dropping food to many parts of the county that had been cut off.

“We currently have 150 recipients and we provide dinners for seven days a week. We deliver in refrigerated vans on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, leaving soup, main courses and dessert for every day of the week,” she said.

As well as ensuring people eat well every day, the service provides an important point of contact to people living in isolated areas. It’s not just about the meal.

“People are referred by: their public health nurses; GPs; and family members. They can also self-refer. The age group is over 65 and we often deliver meals to people who have just been discharged from hospital,” Elaine said.Many elderly service users were feeling vulnerable as a result of the treacherous road conditions, and were worried about being left without electricity, Elaine said.

The Longford service is part of the Meals on Wheels Network that was established under the Irish Rural Link umbrella in 2015.

The network was established to allow groups to share best practice, knowledge and ideas. Irish Rural Link advocates on behalf of the network for more standardised service across the country and a more structured funding stream.

The network has members from almost every county; some groups provide cooked-to-chilled meals while others deliver the meals hot. Recipients pay a contribution towards the cost of the food.

Volunteers are such an important part of Meals on Wheels in delivering the meals but also in chatting with people which may represent the only interaction they have during the day, said Louise Lennon of Irish Rural Link.

The network is open to new member groups, Louise said. The majority of those who benefit from the service in rural areas are elderly, but some people with disabilities also avail of the facility.