Finding the right meal service for seniors can be a challenge with so many options out there. A family caregiver who recently contacted us at Chefs For Seniors stated in an email:
My mom is no longer cooking for herself and her health is suffering as a result. Something’s got to change, but I’m not sure which option would work best for her. She currently has a CNA coming into the home every day for a few hours, but she doesn’t know how to prepare diabetic-friendly meals.
We’ve also tried some meal delivery companies, some better than others, but none seemed to stick. Then we found your company on Google, but a personal chef service seems like it would be way too expensive. What would be really nice is some kind of unbiased information about food options for seniors, do you know where I could find that?
This article is our attempt to answer her question, and provide an unbiased comparison of meal delivery for seniors vs. senior home care meals vs. personal chef services.
We’ll list the advantages and disadvantages of each type of service, then allow you to form your own opinion on which meal service option would suit your needs best.
Meal delivery vs. home care vs. personal chef
Meal delivery services are convenient and affordable, but can’t be customized and sometimes aren’t very healthy. Having a home care aide prepare meals can be a great source for companionship and the meals are freshly made, but senior caregivers aren’t trained cooks and services are very expensive. Personal chef services provide the highest quality fully customized meals but can be a slightly more expensive option than meal delivery.
Pros & Cons of Meal Delivery Services for Seniors
Pros of Meal Delivery Services for Seniors
- Calorie counts
Compared to the other meal options for seniors examined in this article, meal delivery services tend to be more affordable. Most delivery services charge somewhere between $8-$14/meal plus shipping cost (usually ~$20/order).
Most meal delivery services for services have the option to order meals online, and a cooler full of frozen meals will be delivered to your door 3-7 days later. The meals can then be reheated at your convenience.
Since the meals are prepared in a factory setting, meal delivery companies can provide exact calorie counts and other nutrient breakdowns – which can be helpful if you have certain dietary concerns.
Since the meals are prepared in a central location and shipped, you can order meals for delivery from anywhere in the US – even if you live in a rural area.
Cons of Meal Delivery Services For Seniors
- No customization
- No accountability
- More potential trash
Many seniors have specific dietary concerns and/or food preferences, but unfortunately meal delivery services cannot accommodate your specific needs since the meals are mass-produced.
Most meal delivery services for seniors will deliver a cooler of mass-produce IQF frozen meals, so the meals aren’t as fresh and tasty as the other options examined in this article.
Many family caregivers are concerned about whether their loved ones are actually eating the meals ordered from a meal delivery service, or just stacking them in the freezer.
More Potential Trash
Environmentalists have noted that meal delivery services can lead to a lot of excess waste since the containers are disposable and thrown away after use.
Pros & Cons of Home Care Aid Meals
Pros of Home Care Aid Meals
- Plated meals
- Grocery store trip
A senior home care aid prepares meals in the client’s home, which offers a great opportunity for companionship. Recent studies have shown loneliness to be as dangerous to your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Senior home care aides aren’t typically preparing make-ahead meals for the week. They’re usually preparing one meal at a time and plating it for the client.
Grocery Shopping Trip
Many senior home care aids will bring the client along for a grocery-shopping trip, so they can pick out exactly what ingredients they’d like.
Cons of Home Care Aid Meals
- Food Safety
Of the 3 options examined in this article, seniors home care aids preparing meals is by far the highest cost option. The average hourly rate for home care in the US is $25/hour, and if you had a home care aide prepare 2 meals/day at 1 hour prep time/meal, that adds up to $350/week plus groceries.
Since most caregivers don’t have much cooking experience outside of possibly being a home cook, the quality of the food isn’t always great and diets they’re able to accommodate can be limited.
Senior home care aides are not ServSafe certified, so they are not trained in proper food preparation and storage procedures. This could lead to potential food safety issues.
Pros & Cons of Personal Chef Services
Pros of Personal Chef Services
- Food Safety
Since many personal chefs have decades of cooking experience, the quality and freshness of the meals they prepare exceed the other two options examined in this article.
Personal chefs can customize meals to meet your specific dietary concerns and food preferences. They can even work with your dietitian and/or doctor to ensure you’re eating what you’re supposed to.
Since personal chefs prepare the meals in your home, it provides a great opportunity for companionship and a fun experience.
All personal chefs are ServSafe certified, so they’re knowledgeable about proper food handling and storage procedures. This helps avoid the potential for foodborne illness.
Cons of Personal Chef Services
- Lack of nutrition info
While many personal chef services are more affordable than you’d think, they’re still usually more expensive than meal delivery services. For example, Chefs For Seniors charges $110-$140 (plus $40-$60 in groceries) for a week’s worth of meals, ~12 servings.
Since the personal chef industry is relatively new, services aren’t available in every part of the US. Most personal chefs are located in and around major metropolitan areas.
Lack of Nutrition Info
Since the meals are made from scratch in your home, personal chefs aren’t able to provide exact calorie counts and nutrition breakdowns for your meals.
Each of the three types of services examined in this article comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Pros and Cons of Meal Delivery Services For Seniors
Meal delivery services are affordable and available throughout the US, but food quality is often lacking and meals cannot be customized for specific diets.
Pros and Cons of Home Care Aid Meal Prep
Having a senior home care aid prepare meals offers a great opportunity for companionship and meals can be plated fresh, but most caregivers aren’t trained cooks, aren’t ServSafe certified, and it’s by far the most expensive meal service option for seniors.
Pros and Cons of Personal Chef Services
Personal chef services can customize meals for specific diets/food preferences, all chefs are ServSafe certified, and the quality of the meals is top-notch. However, it’s a more expensive option than meal delivery services.
Still have questions about these three types of meal service options for seniors? Contact us directly HERE.
And don’t forget to download your FREE copy of our “Senior Nutrition Guide” e-book below.