How We are Responding to COVID-19
Since the pandemic began, our top priority has been to protect the health and safety of those we serve, and that of our dedicated volunteers and hard-working Meals on Wheels Central Texas staff. At the same time, we are mindful that many of our clients are also at risk for loneliness and depression - “viruses” that pose a serious threat just as the coronavirus does. In order to achieve that delicate balance, we have restructured the ways in which we provide our life-sustaining services to homebound older Central Texans – while also keeping them socially connected. Here is an update on our programs and how our agency is dealing with COVID-19:
To reduce the number of in-person interactions between our clients and volunteers, we have replaced our daily meal deliveries with deliveries of two weeks’ worth of lunches – both frozen and shelf-stable - every other Friday. Before we resume daily hot meal deliveries, we will evaluate public health guidelines, the reopening of pick-up sites and infrastructure needs, including volunteer recruitment. We will stay on our Friday bi-weekly meal delivery schedule until further notice.
Volunteers pick up the food and route sheets at our Central Kitchen (3227 East 5th St.) between 9:00AM – 11:00AM every other Friday. Each meal route consists of a handful of clients who live in close proximity to one another – and we have meal routes all over the Greater Austin area. Volunteers wear masks and practice social distancing when dropping off the meals. Volunteers confirm routes with our Volunteer Services team beforehand via our AlertMedia text messaging system. Volunteers will receive a confirmation participation text, and one route per car will be distributed. We also communicate to volunteers via text message on delivery days when all routes are taken. If you are a current volunteer and have not been receiving texts about our bi-weekly meal deliveries and would like to be included, please contact us a firstname.lastname@example.org or 737-218-4260.
We ask our Meals on Wheels volunteers to do the following on delivery days:
- Clear space in backseat or trunk in order to make room for the boxes and bags of meals our staff will load into the vehicle.
- Bring an ink pen and please keep it handy.
- Bring at least 2 large coolers (or as many coolers and insulated bags as possible) when picking up meals at our Central Kitchen (3227 East 5th Street, 78702). This is to ensure the frozen lunches maintain safe temperatures. Volunteers will pick up 5 frozen plates in purple/burgundy bags, 5 cold sides in yellow bags, and 5 shelf stable meals and sides in white bags per client.
- Immediately contact our Customer Service Department at 512-476-6325 should no one answer the door at a clients’ house. We will attempt to reach the client by phone to see if they are home before the volunteer moves on to their next delivery. If the Customer Service representative confirms the client is not at home and to ‘give the meals away’, please only LEAVE THE WHITE BAGS AND SHELF STABLE BOXES on the porch and proceed to give away the yellow and purple bags. NOTE: yellow and purple bags CANNOT be left on the porch due to spoilage.
While the meals nourish our clients bodies, our dedicated Client Services team is nourishing their spirit; spending hours on the phone each day calling the nearly 3,000 homebound older Central Texans we serve, checking on them, assessing their needs, and easing their concerns.
Clients who have access to the internet are also invited to participate in the bingo games and other virtual activities currently being offered by our Senior Centers program (see “Senior Centers” later in this update).
Meals on Wheels Central Texas In-Home Care continues to provide essential in-home care services to help our clients remain safe in their home. Our caregivers are trained to comply with all required health and safety precautions, and pre-screen themselves and the clients they serve for symptoms of COVID-19 and other illnesses prior to delivering these services.
Our Home Repair program continues to repair the exteriors of clients’ houses and perform emergency interior repairs. Work crews are completing projects while also adhering to social distancing guidelines.
HOPE clients are still receiving monthly supplies of shelf stable groceries delivered by wonderful volunteers who take every precaution to protect the health of the clients and themselves.
Thanks to the hard work of our pet loving volunteers, our clients’ beloved dogs and cats are still getting monthly supplies of pet food. These drop-offs are also done while adhering to health and safety protocols.
PALS has resumed veterinary care transports for clients’ pets. Volunteers and clinic staff follow all health and safety protocols.
Dedicated Grocery to Go volunteers continue to make trips to the grocery store for our clients in this program while also adhering to health and safety protocols.
Although all local Senior Centers are temporarily closed due to the pandemic, we continue to nourish and enrich the lives of program participants by offering weekly curbside meal distribution at the sites. Clients not only receive a week’s supply of lunches, they also take home an activity packet containing games, puzzles, etc. Participants are also able to stay connected with their friends through virtual activities like thematic workshops and playing Bingo. Check out our Senior Centers page to keep up-to-date with current virtual activities.
Although Mike’s Place has temporarily suspended respite care, we are providing participants with nutritious meals and activity kits delivered to their home and are staying in virtual contact with their caregivers. Mike’s Place participants and volunteers keep in touch via Zoom or via socially-distanced porch visits outside of clients’ homes.
We worked with our friends at The University of Texas Dell Medical School to evaluate the impact of a similar four-week program named “Sunshine Calls.” The study with 240 of our MOWCTX clients showed that the friendly calls significantly reduced loneliness, depression and anxiety and improved the general mental health of our clients within four weeks. The results were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in February 2021 and is available in full text online. Once the program concluded, many of the participants then joined our ongoing Care Calls program previously mentioned.
How You Can Help
Join us to deliver! To find out about our virtual online volunteer training or to learn more click here.