By Ryan Mavity via www.capegazette.com

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted three Sussex County nonprofits $750,000 to develop a program to help improve the quality of life for homebound seniors.

The proposed program will be jointly run by CHEER Senior Services, La Red Health Center and Educational Health Resources International, the nonprofit arm of Nationwide Healthcare Services, which owns the Milford Wellness Village senior facility.

Under the program, to be known as We Care, volunteers will deliver daily meals and develop a wellness checklist in order to ensure that seniors over the age of 60 have medical checks and an annual Medicare medical visit. The three-year program will have a coordinator serving as a single point of contact who will also follow up to make sure problems identified through the checklist are addressed. In addition, data from We Care will be compiled and monitored by researchers at the University of Delaware.

At an Oct. 18 press event at Milford Wellness Village – located at the former Milford Memorial Hospital – announcing the grant, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper said the Sussex County grant is one of only seven nationwide and was the largest of the seven.

“Today’s grant announcement from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will help our homebound seniors stay out of the hospital and remain in their homes,” Carper said. “This program has the potential to lower healthcare costs while keeping our older loved ones as healthy as possible. These are just the kind of programs we need across the country to improve the health of our communities and address the rising costs of healthcare.”

Ken Bock, CEO of CHEER Senior Services, said in addition to the $750,000 in federal funding, the program has also received $250,000 in private funding. He said We Care will help bring medical services into the homes of isolated seniors who lack access to adequate medical care.

CHEER helps run the Meals on Wheels program in Sussex County, which Bock said is a vital service for homebound seniors, and is often their only point of contact during the day.

“When that volunteer shows up at their door with a meal, that brightens their day,” Bock said. “Through this partnership, we are going to now be able to add a health screening component to make sure the individual who is isolated on the other side of that door is going to be healthy and continue to be healthy in their own home.”

Meir Gelley, CEO of Nationwide Healthcare Services, said he hopes the program will serve as a template for others to follow. He said the program will help cover gaps in medical care and social services for seniors and also serve as a go-between with family members.

Sen. Chris Coons said the program will help seniors age in place gracefully, peacefully and respectfully.

“It’s not a home health aid but it’s the best eyes and ears we have got for connecting with hundreds of seniors who we all want to live at home, if at all possible, for as long as possible,” he said.