Yesterday, the media and public were in an uproar over the claims that Australian aged care services were only spending $6 to feed a resident three meals.

On 9 Network’s Today show, Georgie Gardner spoke with CEO of Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) Sean Rooney, about the recent allegation.

To which he responded; “the thing to understand is there is a range of factors that contribute to whole issue of food around residential aged care”

“The first thing to know is that as people age, it’s understandable that many of them will experience the loss of appetite and that can contribute to the risk of malnutrition”

“So in that context, residential aged care providers are acutely aware of that  and so they are compelled through the quality standards to put in place appropriate meals that provide adequate nutrition and hydration that enables good quality care to be delivered”

“So when you unpack the costs of $6 a day versus $8 a day etc etc, there’s some things to really take into account”

“The first thing to note is that the prices we are talking about are wholesale prices, not retail prices – this is not what you pay when you go to a Woolies checkout.”

“The second thing is that when preparing food in these facilities, these are commercial scale operations, this is not your family kitchen”.

“The other thing to note is that the meals provided, more often than not given that the calorie requirements of older people living in residential aged care is often a lot lower than the average adult, the actual portion sizes are smaller.”

“And finally, it’s not just food – there are supplements that are provided that are not included in that costing and those supplements are more often than not prescribed by a GP to ensure that there is adequate nutrition and to deal with conditions such as dysphagia, which is problems swallowing, or people with dental issues”

“So there are a number of elements, and to be honest, it’s a bit disingenuous to go and compage what happens in an aged care facility to what happens in a prison – totally different in terms of calories requirements and needs.”

“[Prisons] are predominantly male population that is relatively mobile and fit and healthy in that system versus predominantly female over the age of 80-85 who don’t live particularly active lifestyles”

“We would argue that there are a lot of things to be looked into rather than just grabbing a ‘$6 a day’.”

When questions if he would eat the food offered in aged care, Rooney said, “I’ve eaten food at facilities”.

“I’ve been to many facilities, I’ve sat down and eaten their food, I’ve met with their residents and had food with them”

“I’d fair to say the system and process in place in regards to quality standards – which all have to be met – in order to have a menu plan provided in residential aged care facilities, they need to be provided by a dietician, delivered by hospitality professionals.”

“The nutrition content is measured, [there are] other protocols in place that enable the people that providing the care to monitor the weight of the residents.”

“There are a number of systems and process that are tied to the quality standards that actually deliver that appropriate nutrition”.

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What the Public Have to Say

Georgie then went on to read messages submitted by the public – from aged care workers, to family member to people who were simply concerned by the story.

Judith Leigh said “I think it’s an absolute disgrace treating the elderly in this manner. Certainly needs investigation at the top level with inspectors employed to constantly check these facilities”.

Aged care worker Judy Stanfield said “I was just retrained into aged care and I’m horrified at the treatment of our elderly. They are physically well cared for but they are not “people” rather a set of “funadable tasks” contained within timeframes – it’s undignified and inhumane”

Jenny Lee, another aged care worker, added “I work in aged care and I love my job. I guess our residents are fortunate they all get healthy edible meals everyday. I do think aged care needs to be properly regulated to makes sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen. The elderly are vulnerable and we need to make sure they always have the kind of care they deserve.”

Lastly, Dale Carruthers said “my father spent the last five months of his life in an aged care facility and the food and care he received was absolutely fantastic – there were no concerns in anyway. Some facilities are extremely profit driven”.

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