Friday, March 17, 2017

Cut Meal On Wheels? You Bastards!

So Himself's new budget intends to cut Meals on Wheels because it's a waste of money? That is one of the cruelest, most cynical ways of transferring funding from the poor to tax breaks for the multi-millionaires who least need them.

Let's take just one example. My parents grew up during the Great Depression. They knew how to stretch a nickel, not to mention a buck, how to save for their old age, all in hopes of remaining as independent as possible for as long as possible. Mom's worst nightmare was winding up in a nursing home, like both their mothers had.

Dinners out as I grew up were a rarity, with meals made almost entirely from scratch - so much that I learned to judge weights from the size of flour or sugar packages and bags of potatos - and the grocery shopping was for what was needed after meat from hunting, fish caught from the lake, and what grew in the garden were taken into account. Clothing was hand-me-downs, whether it fit well or not, and invariably years out of style. My embarrassment was less important than what might be put away in the bank.

I used to say of my mother that she never found a penny she couldn't pinch. It took me years to realize it was a compliment.

There came a time when old age caught up to them. Mom started having TIAs, and cooking became more difficult, perhaps even more dangerous. The list of menu items shrunk. While Daddy could putter around in the kitchen a tiny bit, he really depended on Mom for meals, even more so as his blindness increased and his physical mobility decreased.

The two of them decided to get Meals on Wheels the last couple years before Mom died from a massive stroke at age 90. Suddenly there were new kinds of food in the house, meals were well balanced, and somebody poked their head in for a "Howdy" and a wellness check as the food was delivered. If they were going to be late due to a Doctor's appointment or something, a cooler was left on the doorstep, two meals were inserted, and it was assumed they were OK, at least enough to leave the house. Thrifty as they were, each of them stretched that one meal to both lunch and supper, making the modest amount they paid for the service stretch even further.

Once Mom, died, Daddy was in even more need of the service, along with some daily home health care and cleaning. When the agency we used became less than ideal, we moved him into my home. Varied schedules by the family, daily visits from a great county nursing staff, and yes, Meals on Wheels, all kept him out of a nursing home for his remaining years.  (He lived to 97 1/2.)
They were trained to walk right in with his meal, as by then his various handicaps left him unable to answer the door in any kind of a timely fashion. When he fell in the bathroom one morning, it was their lunchtime visit that enabled him to be helped back into his chair, or he would have been trapped there hours longer. When his doctor finally gave him hospice status, he still got his Meals on Wheels until his last few days when he stopped eating at all. It meant he could still be at home among family when he died, and whoever stayed with him, especially those last few months, could concentrate on keeping him company and tending to his safety.

I firmly believed that not only did Meals on Wheels prolong both their lives by helping maintain a high nutritional standard of living for them, but they were the reason my parents didn't wind up in a nursing care facility, with mediocre to indifferent care, and spending years supported by Medicaid to be there. Due to them, my parents knew, every day of their lives, that they were loved, not abandoned.

That would be priceless.

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