Almost two-thirds of general and acute hospital beds are occupied by people over the age of 65 years. Studies in Australia have found that up to 8-30% of community-dwelling and home-bound elderly, and up to 40-70% of aged care home residents suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition is associated with negative outcomes for the eldering including higher rates of infection and complications, impaired wound healing, increased muscle loss and morbidity and mortality.

Good nutrition assists in the maintenance of independence and supports people to continue living at home. Whereas, frailty and inability to nourish or care for oneself adequately can often precipitate in premature admission to an aged care home.

Aside from residents individual health concerns other issues surrounding inadequate nutrition and hydration in aged care occurs as a result of; insufficient staffing levels at mealtimes, missed meals or not enough time to feed people, budget cuts, quality and freshness of food (impacting on appeal), and infrequent food satisfaction surveying of residents or their representatives.

Aged care homes are required to meet The Accreditation Standards every three years which contains a checklist of forty-four ‘expected outcomes’. With a stronger focus on identifying compliance rather than showcasing excellence, means there is limited incentives for providers to standout from minimum compliance. One of the Forty-Four Standards covers ” Nutrition and Hydration”(Standard 2.10), with an expectation that all residents should receive adequate nourishment and hydration. Exactly how a facility goes about this is up to the individual’s interpretation. The Standards provide rather general, outcome based requirements which fail to adequately address requirements around best practice for menu planning and implementation.

Food is one of the most talked about topics amongst residents in care, and has the potential to significantly impact on one’s quality of life for the better or the worse. A greater emphasis needs to be put on best practice models and innovation to lift the status quo of your ‘typical’ aged care home. Access to adequate food and nutrition in a form that is enjoyable and well thought out without arbitrary restrictions is a fundamental right for all residents in our aged care homes. For this to be delivered across the industry we need a nationally agreed nutritional standard that explicitly states requirements for aged care providers is much needed to prevent unnecessary, yet common, development of malnutrition for residents in care.

Did you know?

The level of interest by both residents and health professionals regarding the quality of food in aged care is one of the reasons Aged Care Report Card has established ‘Food Quality’ as one of the seven Standards of Excellence in Care. Allowing providers real time feedback to evaluate their service through an independent platform to receive honest feedback on how their food compares in the eyes of their residents.

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