Anoka-Champlin Meals on Wheels continues to deliver — more than 28,000 meals a year, mostly to senior citizens — but the 42-year-old outfit has broadened its mission and recently changed its name to reflect that.
It’s now Impact Services (www.impactservicesmn.org), and it’s also addressing additional issues related to aging — housing needs or legal questions, for example.
That falls in line with broader trends locally and beyond, said Patrick Rowan, who heads Metro Meals on Wheels in Minneapolis, the umbrella association for 35 metrowide Meals on Wheels programs.
Although Meals on Wheels has been a stand-alone program for a long time, “recently, there’s been a movement to incorporate more programs, to make it easier to connect with resources to find out about services available” to the aging community, Rowan said.
Store to Door, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, and other chore- and transportation-related programs have also emerged in recent years, he added. It’s about trying to make the service as accessible as possible to help a wide swath of people, he said.
As an early step toward its expanded mission, Impact Services has developed a program called Senior Care is a Family Affair. It brings together aging parents and adult children “to discuss the dynamics and familial issues surrounding the aging process,” says Impact’s website.
Impact Services tried out the program in a seminar at the Homestead in Anoka this past spring, said Steve Griffiths, Impact’s executive director. The program’s curriculum touches on housing, legal topics, financial safety and security, and home and community supports. It doesn’t cover everything; rather, “It says, ‘these are the questions to ask,’ ” said Griffiths, who notes it’s still a work in progress.
The goal is to roll out a related senior care handbook in October. “Someone can call us and say, ‘we can work through this together as a family. Can you send us a manual?’ ” Griffiths said. He also envisions three-hour seminars that cover the whole curriculum, as well as shorter, more narrowly focused sessions.
“Our hope is for people to be able to open up a dialogue, honor their parents through the aging process and do what they can to put that road map together so they can follow it,” said Griffiths.
He says the organization’s new direction is “a good opportunity to help people in one of the most difficult parts of their life, to navigate circumstances that there’s no way to avoid.”
Making a larger impact
Jasmine Jonell, who is contributing to the senior care handbook, attended the pilot program in the spring with her mom. As an attorney who focuses on elder law issues and medical assistance planning, she was familiar with the subjects. At the event, Jonell was struck by how “so many families do not address senior care issues until an emergency arises,” she said.
It’s something that people seem to put off, as if “if we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist. The problem with that mentality is the children never know what their parents’ wishes are, and often their parents will then end up somewhere they don’t want to be,” Jonell said.
Unfortunately, she said, adult children wind up making emergency decisions “during moments of heartache, chaos, and grief that they just aren’t equipped to make.” Nobody wants to leave his or her parents in a nursing home or assisted living, she said. To make up for it, adult children will seek out the “most beautiful place to move mom or dad.” However, they tend to overlook important details about the kind of care they can expect at a place, Jonell said. She’s glad to see Impact Services striving to make a difference in this area.
Bruce Sayler, a board member of Impact Services, said the organization wants to “make a larger impact in the community.” As someone who continues to be a driver for Meals on Wheels, he knows how important that service is not only to clients, but also to their caregivers. “It takes the burden off their shoulders,” Sayler said. That’s something to build on. The initiatives around aging issues are about “creating awareness, starting the dialogue, bringing in the right people to talk about that,” he said. The organization wants to be a resource, too, where it can refer people to the different services available, Sayler added.
Lori Higgins of the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce, who also serves on the group’s board, said it’s about being “more visionary, how we can successfully make a difference to the aging population.” She sees the organization as a trailblazer. Higgins isn’t aware of another group that’s taking a holistic approach to these topics. As its services take root, other groups will be able to duplicate the program. So far, the response has been largely positive. “It’s definitely striking a chord,” Higgins said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.