The Prairie Council on Aging announced last week that the Door Bell dinners and Bread of Love programs were in search of volunteers to deliver meals. Council Executive Director Nancy Thorsen says that the volunteers would go through a mandatory health screening and be placed on a substitute teacher style list and be called into help. “We’re gathering a list of volunteers. They are asked these [health] questions. We accept their phone numbers, and like substitute teachers, if needed we will contact them. We are in contact daily with the churches [in Jacksonville] that help us deliver doorbell dinners every day Monday through Friday. They have been doing it without fail for over 40 years. We want to keep that up. There are about 80 clients daily on that program. Then, there are 275 clients daily on the Bread of Love nutrition program.”
Thorsen says their normal group of volunteers are an at-risk population to begin with. “I think there is a need for a robust list of volunteers in the event that the existing volunteer groups, who – let’s face it – are providing volunteers who they themselves are over 65. They may have underlying conditions, diabetes, lung issues, that sort of thing and we don’t want to put them at risk. Everyone is a little nervous at this point in time. We are just trying to keep everybody fed.” Thorsen said that Bread of Love has been limited to 2 days a week currently to limit contact.
Thorsen says the council is also providing other vital services to seniors right now. “We are essential. Prairie Council provides not only these meals, but we provide adult protective service to people who are being financially exploited and we’re continuing to do that work. We provide in-home care aides, automatic medication dispensers, and emergency home response buttons. We’re continuing to do those works to keep as many seniors in their homes in the community safely rather than in hospitals or long-term care facilities at this time.”
Thorsen said they have been mandated to provide more help in-home for seniors, especially those who are alone. “We have been mandated by the Department on Aging to prioritize ‘initials,’ which are people who have never been in one of our programs to get in one of the programs. These are individuals who may be experiencing a fair amount of loneliness. Just to have an in-home aide come in 2 hours a day, 3 days a week could certainly help someone who has no one. We are triaging those individuals and those who need an increase in hours not only because of loneliness but because they may need additional transportation or an in-home care aide to go to the pharmacy or that sort of thing.”
Thorsen says that they are just doing what they do day-to-day but with more precautions. She says that the council can continue to service people over the phone for reduced license plates, Medicare questions, or social security questions.
For more information about the services provided by the Prairie Council on Aging, reach out to their offices at 800 West State Street at 479-4619.