Nursing students work with Senior Meals on Wheels

GVL / Courtesy - Jack M. Eichner
Senior Meals Program

GVL / Courtesy – Jack M. Eichner Senior Meals Program

Lucas Escalada

Students from the Kirkhof College of Nursing at Grand Valley State University worked with Senior Meals on Wheels to provide food and emotional support to the elderly, helping them remain healthy and independent in their homes. Senior Meals on Wheels specializes in nutritional services for the elderly in West Michigan.

Dr. Joanne Finazzi led the students as part of their required community health rotation.

“Under the leadership of president and CEO Brewster Hamm, KCON students and Senior Meals staff members engaged in a wide variety of academic and community health efforts in West Michigan,” Finazzi said.

Mallory Buth, development administrator for Senior Meals on Wheels, said nursing students completed over 150 client assessments. The partnership with KCON gives Senior Meals greater exposure, which could provide opportunities for future research regarding senior hunger, she said. Buth added that working with Senior Meals also gives students real, hands-on experience.

“The students are also becoming more aware of other problems facing seniors today, and why receiving a meal and someone checking up on them a few times a week is so important,” Buth said.

Buth said the partnership is very valuable for the students and the seniors. Senior Meals on Wheels is currently only working with GVSU nursing students but, in the future, they hope to collaborate with other universities in the area.

Junior Ellen Roderick and senior Alerie Dunkel both worked with Senior Meals. Neither of them had expectations going into the program.

Roderick said she gained a lot of nursing experience while working with Senior Meals. She said she learned to look at a patient from many different ways and that she could practice that during her time with Senior Meals.

“We weren’t just taking vitals anymore or giving medications, but we were looking at someone’s living conditions, income, amount of medications they had, the family support, etc.,” Roderick said. “It was really surprising – the lack of resources that some of these adults had.”

Roderick worked with a woman whose electricity was about to be shut off. She reported it to Senior Meals immediately, but she said it was eye opening to think about the problems this could have caused.

She added that the experience helped her understand what a nurse does, and how many things she can do.

“Anything I can do to make someone’s life a little bit better in that stressful moment is all I want to do,” Roderick said.

Dunkel thought she would be packing meals and delivering them. She was surprised when she learned she would be involved in a complete health assessment of clients.

“So that came as a surprise when Dr. Finazzi told us that we’d be visiting people’s houses and doing the assessments to help Senior Meals out,” she said.

Although Dunkel plans to work in pediatrics, she said the opportunity made her think that if there are elders who are in need in the community, there are children there as well.

“I never thought I would want to work at an organization like Senior Meals until I had the opportunity to work with them,” Dunkel said.

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