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Meals on Wheels drivers checking on elderly in Omaha during heat advisory

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 12:19 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Record heat Thursday quickly humbled many of us. Parts of the Omaha-metro area hit triple digits temperatures by 1 p.m.

For many, the glaring sun meant trips to the pool or a lazy day under the AC, but not everyone had that option, specifically, our elderly neighbors who may be sick and shut-in.

That’s where meals on wheels stepped in. Although the program - part of the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging - is typically known for delivering food, the scope of their responsibilities extends far beyond that.

On days where temperatures are sweltering and threaten the health and safety of their clients, drivers are checking for signs of heat exhaustion or other issues.

Jay Renshaw is one of those drivers. He’s been with the program for twelve years as a driver and supervisor.

“Some people are very frail so it’s a safety check for them that we check on them daily and make sure they’re ok,” Renshaw said, referring to the meal deliveries serving as a multi purpose operation.

Meals on Wheels serves home bound senior, sixty years and up. Renshaw said drivers are trained to report any unusual or concerning behavior to their supervisors, so the agency can quickly get in touch with a client’s family or find a way to get them the necessary assistance.

Katelyn York, the program’s Director echoed Renshaw, and added driver’s do more than just drop off dinner. Often times they’re creating a form of companionship by spending time with clients and talking to them.

Simply asking ‘how are you doing today? How are you feeling? Having that connection helps better our clients and help us recognize when something is wrong,” said York.

Centers for Disease Control reports older adults are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes the body’s normal response to heat, which is another reason the relationships developed between drivers and residents is key.

That driver or volunteer could be the only person the client sees that particular day, so they may be the first or only one to spot a problem.

“When you go into the home, you can notice they might seem a little odd or a little faint. Especially on a day like this, knowing that they are ok, checking on them - the social aspect of that is really important.” York said.

“You have to have your heart in the program and a heart for the people that you serve to make sure they are healthy and get the nutrition they need on a daily basis,” added Renshaw.

ENOA is currently collecting fans for older adults across the state.

If you have a fan you’d like to donate, you can drop it off at the ENOA Omaha office, located at 4780 S 131st St, Omaha, NE 68137.

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