Nurse helps bring groceries to vulnerable patients during pandemic

Nurses at DispatchHealth have been helping make sure the most vulnerable receive the groceries they need to live. (Photo: DispatchHealth)
Nurses at DispatchHealth have been helping make sure the most vulnerable receive the groceries they need to live. (Photo: DispatchHealth)

A Colorado nurse practitioner has been helping the most vulnerable patients get access to the groceries they need during the pandemic.

Pam Womack, a nurse practitioner with DispatchHealth in Denver, has still been providing patients with home visits during this difficult time. In addition to medical checkups, she has also been providing groceries for the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic. Womack tells Yahoo Life that a lot has changed in the last few months.

“We have a lot more to consider when we go see a patient,” she says. “While we’ve always worn appropriate personal protective equipment, including masks, booties and gloves, we're spending more time sanitizing our kits and devices during and between visits. We also saw a spike in COVID-related phone calls for the first several weeks of the pandemic. Our hope is that people will continue to use at-home services beyond the pandemic to keep unnecessary visits out of the ER.”

Womack, who has worked with DispatchHealth for four years, adds that many of her patients are particularly vulnerable during this time, including those that are elderly or live with chronic diseases. And in addition to their increased risk of falling ill, it is also a challenge for them to get the groceries they need.

Dozens of food items have been packaged for delivery to elderly and chronically ill patients. (Photo: DispatchHealth)
Dozens of food items have been packaged for delivery to elderly and chronically ill patients. (Photo: DispatchHealth)

“Many of our older clients live in independent living communities where there is transport arranged and available as a group. If not, they have family that can do their shopping or take them when they need to go. On occasion, there are those who drive themselves. With the COVID crisis, transport has been halted and families are not allowed in senior living communities,” Womack says.

Erin Pulling, CEO of Food Bank of the Rockies in Denver, tells Yahoo Life that the food bank’s partnership with DispatchHealth to address food insecurity began prior to the pandemic, but now is even more than ever.

“Food insecurity has always been an important topic, it’s somewhat of an invisible problem,” she notes. “We don’t realize how many people are actually food insecure. It’s such a high percentage of people who every single month have had to make a decision of having to feed their kids or pay for a repair bill on a car. And now...half of Americans have either had a job loss or a reduction in hours.”

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Pulling adds that distribution has been up by 40 percent. And though food banks have been dealing with a lack of volunteers and having to change how they receive food items, they still want to make sure they help those in need during this unprecedented time.

Food Bank volunteers have also had to change the way they give food to those in need to not only protect themselves, but also the people they serve (Photo: Erin Pulling)
Food Bank volunteers have also had to change the way they give food to those in need to not only protect themselves, but also the people they serve (Photo: Erin Pulling)

“We’re so proud to partner with DispatchHealth and we’re looking at new ways...to meet the critical needs in our community right now and this is just one of those examples and we need to meet people where they are and being able to serve people in their home is I think the ideal example of we can meet food insecurity needs among our most vulnerable community members,” Pulling says.

Womack recalls the “overwhelming gratitude” expressed by the people she and her colleagues have helped bring food to at home.

“They are scared, unsure of how to get their health care needs addressed and afraid to venture out into public, even if they could,” she says. “They are extremely appreciative of all that we are able to provide, even on the smallest scale...My heart simply swells with pride to be a part of such a caring group of people. Not to mention the joy and satisfaction in knowing I have made a difference in someone's life today. What may seem a small thing to most of us, a bag of groceries, can make the difference between having a meal this evening, or going to bed hungry.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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