Malnutrition is a growing concern for the elderly of our community. Additionally, as baby boomers age they’re facing more medical challenges making it important for them to stay healthy and out of the hospital as much as possible.

How do our diets impact our health? Eating poorly – or not enough of the required daily nutrients – may be tied to poor health outcomes. It can contribute to falls, poor wound healing and longer recovery after a hospital stay. People are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital if they have inadequate nutrition during their recovery.

Malnutrition can come from a poor diet: not eating fresh, well-balanced meals or eating junk food. Lack of essential nutrients can decrease your hunger for healthy food, which makes your body suffer. However, once nutrition needs are met, the body’s desire for more nutrients may increase.

Prescott Meals On Wheels is part of a solution to help heal those in need as well as to get them back to a healthier nutrition path.

Each day at Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC), a tent card is placed on the meal tray of every adult patient. The tent card alerts patients to the Prescott Meals On Wheels program.

“We believe the tray tents are one measure that raises awareness of the program and assists in the success of the Prescott Meals on Wheels outreach,” said Jeanne Briggs, Director of Nutrition Services at YRMC. “We also encourage our YRMC Patient Care offices to have informational pamphlets available for their patients in order to reach a wider audience.”

Bert Ijams, Prescott Meals On Wheels Executive Director, is passionate about this program. It’s designed to help recently discharged adult hospital patients “receive a hot and healthy meal, a wellness check and social interaction once a day for as long as they need or want the service.”

Ms. Ijams said, “These three things combined help a person live independently, with a sense of safety, for as long as they possibly can.”

The wellness check is critical to ensure the individual has some kind of attention in case an emergency arises that family members may not be available to identify. In these cases, drivers report back immediately to Prescott Meals On Wheels, so family and emergency services may be contacted.

The social aspect is also important to improving health outcomes. Loneliness and isolation are common feelings the elderly and recovering adults experience, especially right after leaving the hospital.

Participating in the Prescott Meals On Wheels program is easy. According to Ms. Ijams, the program helps adults, 18 years or older, who are “unable to access food in some way or have some level of cognitive or physical impairment that makes them unable to prepare the food.”

The response to the Prescott Meals On Wheels program has been positive, according to YRMC’s Ms. Briggs.

“This is an opportunity for members of our community to have some help in their recovery when they leave the hospital and beyond,” she said.

Ms. Ijams added, “What YRMC does each day to get the tray tents out to each patient is a massive outreach project.”

Prescott Meals On Wheels serves the city of Prescott. Other independent programs are located in Chino Valley, Mayer, Prescott Valley and Yarnell (928-427-6347).