Can providing free meals to seniors in failing health prevent some from winding up in nursing homes? In a study published last week, Brown University researchers found that, all things being equal, the amount a state spends on subsidized meals correlates with a reduction in the percentage of relatively healthy seniors in nursing homes.
The researchers examined state expenditure data for subsidized meal delivery programs and compared it with the percentage of “low-care” nursing home residents — who don’t use most nursing home services or require much supervised care — living in more than 16,000 nursing homes nationwide.
What they found was that states that spent more per senior citizen (residents age 65 and over) on delivered meals had lower rates of low-care residents in their nursing homes. Massachusetts spent $48 per senior in 2009, the latest year for which data is available, which is less than Wyoming, which spent $82 per senior, and more than Washington, which spent just $8.
A variety of subsidized meals programs are available in the state. These include Meals on Wheels, which delivers free or low-cost meals to seniors at their homes, Minuteman Senior Services, which offers meals at senior centers, and Magnolia Meals at Home for breast cancer patients.