Shortage of In-Home Assistance Providers for Seniors in Harris County

Within the next three years Harris County will be home to more than 500,000 senior citizens. It's estimated about ten percent of them will need some type of in-home assistance, such as Meals on Wheels. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, that presents a problem for service providers.

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At the offices of Interfaith Ministries, employees and volunteers deliver 3,300 meals every day to senior citizens. COO Bridget Samuel says they're already maintaining a waiting list for meal service, and the senior population is growing.

"What we're seeing is about 200 a month are added to our waiting list to receive services for food."

There are currently 1,100 people on that waiting list with more added every day. Samuel says by 2010, they expect as many as 5,000 people to be on the list. And most people are stuck waiting for about six months.

"What's happening a lot of times is we see that, you know a lot of times our clients may die or end up in a nursing home before we can actually get to them to start serving them a regular meal."

It costs $1,200 to feed one senior citizen for a year. Interfaith Ministries receives federal funding to cover about half the cost, the rest comes from fundraising donations. Samuel says people are eligible based on age, they have to be over 60, and their inability to care for themselves.

"These are individuals who cannot -- do not have the ability to prepare a nutritious meal for themselves on a regular basis and it's typically because they have several, two to three, chronic illnesses."

Interfaith Ministries is just one of many meal providers in the Greater Houston Area. So Samuel says their waiting list reflects just one segment of the seniors in need. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...