Despite change, meals still available

For The Tribune

The Columbus-based nonprofit Thrive Alliance, which has delivered home meals to 220 senior and disabled clients in five counties, will turn that service over to other agencies Dec. 11.

Eighty-one of those clients are in Bartholomew County, and the program is only one such home meal delivery program available. Thrive Alliance also serves Jackson, Jennings, Brown and Decatur counties.

A recent policy change at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which funds the program, mandates that agencies providing case management cannot also provide direct services to clients without a conflict of interest. So Thrive Alliance will continue case management and drop its Meals For Better Living deliveries, said Mark Lindenlaub, Thrive Alliance’s executive director.

Case workers already have been meeting with clients to allow them to pick their new deliverer of meals from three to six different options to make sure a plan meets their needs and limitations, including being able to retrieve frozen or unfrozen shelf meals left at their door.

Lindenlaub said most clients receive five to seven meals per week. He added that case workers are making certain that meals can be retrieved in many cases by other visiting professionals such as home health aides at a client’s home.

“We would not let clients select a vendor whose delivery option or preparation was beyond the abilities of our clients to manage,” Lindenlaub said, adding that drivers always have been careful to account for clients’ limitations.

That’s important since some critics of the delivery change have said they worried that clients’ meals would spoil.

Ruth Bosch, executive director of the North Vernon-based Jennings County Senior Center, has been vocal about the issue.

Bosch also worries that some who live alone without the aid of other programs could face challenges. She mentioned that meal deliverers often have been people who also come inside briefly to chat and see how the clients are doing physically and emotionally.

“Who will look in on these folks?” Bosch asked. “Currently, it is (often) a daily visit from someone who knows their name, not just their address.”

Lindenlaub and state officials say that will be accounted for regarding clients, since 83 percent already have other home-based services.

One Columbus client, Shirley Sylvia, 83, said there’s a good chance she will pick as her new deliverer a company called Mom’s Meals — one that used to bring meals to her husband, now deceased. Sylvia mentioned that the driver always brought in the frozen dinners and stored them in the freezer for him.

“I was happy with the way things were,” Sylvia said of her five meals per week delivered in three trips.

“The whole reason for this is that we want the agencies to be unbiased and trusted resources,” said Debbie Pierson, deputy director of operations for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Aging.

Marni Lemons, the agency’s deputy director of communications and media, said she’s glad people are asking questions about the change.

“We certainly can understand their concerns over clients,” Lemons said.

About the meals

Clients: Must be at least 60 years old, or disabled of any age. Some income guidelines occasionally apply. There is currently a waiting list for meal delivery.

Cost: Many of the clients’ meals are subsidized and free, but that depends upon which funding source they sign up under for the program. Others pay $5 per meal.

Delivery pattern: Can vary under the new plan. For instance, Mom’s Meals makes three deliveries per week of five meals: A hot meal and frozen meal on Monday, the same on Wednesday and a hot meal on Friday.

How clients are deciding on new delivery: Many are sticking with the current Mid-Land Meals of Lafayette, according to Thrive Alliance. They simply will be delivered by a different vendor.

To sign up for meals: Call Columbus-based Thrive Alliance at 812-372-6918.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.