Food for thought: home-delivered meals

If meal preparation is becoming too much of an effort for you or a loved one, help may be at hand.

Heavy pans, awkwardly designed cupboards and poorly placed benches can make cooking trickier as you age, so it's no wonder that some older people find it easier to snack on biscuits and a cup of tea rather than cook a full meal, particularly if they're living alone.

However, by doing so, they may be missing out on essential nutrition, making them more susceptible to malnutrition.

It doesn’t need to be like this. Home food delivery is one of the most basic services provided by Home and Community Care (HACC), a government-funded program that helps older people stay in their own homes longer.*

Your food delivery options 

Meals on Wheels is the best known of the services that delivers nourishing, balanced meals to older people in their own homes.

It's been operating nationally in Australia for more than 60 years and supplies almost 14 million meals a year to more than 50,000 people, thanks to its legion of volunteers.
Meals on Wheels is the biggest home food delivery provider with HACC, but it's not the only option. Local councils, healthcare professionals or the Australian Government’s My Aged Care website are good starting points to find out who delivers meals in your town or suburb. You can also call Bupa's Aged Care Support Line for more information on meal delivery services and other assistance for older loved ones.
Once you've chosen a provider, they will assess eligibility and explain the types of food they can deliver, when they deliver the food, and what it will cost. A three-course Meals on Wheels meal for instance can cost up to $12.
Younger woman serving elderly woman food

Meals and more 

Some providers deliver hot meals that are ready to be eaten right away. Other providers offer frozen or chilled meals that will need to be heated first. 

Although this requires an extra preparation step, the advantage is that the person can eat the meal whenever they're hungry, rather than having to eat the hot meal when it's delivered. 
People who require special meals for medical, cultural or religious reasons can generally be catered for, especially in larger towns and cities where a greater variety of meals and providers are available.
Providers are also looking into ways that they can better meet the needs of the people they serve. Community Chef , a provider of meals in Melbourne, commissioned research that found that smaller appetites meant that some people were not eating all of the delivered meal. 

As a result, Community Chef got together with the CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia to come up with smaller meals that pack the same nutritional punch as a full meal. Community Chef is now working towards having these smaller meals as an option.

The surprising benefits of food delivery

Social isolation can be a significant issue for older people, and one of the hidden benefits of home food delivery services is the social contact the delivery can provide. It may be a lifesaver, as delivery volunteers will report any concerns they may have about the welfare of their clients.
Another option for people who want companionship and conversation at the dinner table is eating at community centres, which frequently provide meals through the HACC program. It's also possible to have a person come into the home to help prepare and cook meals. However, this is a higher level of service and will cost more than pre-prepared meals.
If you or a loved one is struggling to prepare meals, consider looking into a food delivery service. Meals on Wheels and other HACC providers are able to deliver balanced meals that suit most people's needs and tastes, at an affordable price.

Bupa aged care support line

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