Jun 17, 2021

68% of Australian aged care residents are at risk of malnutrition – how do we fix it?

Senior couple eating meal in care home

Everyone deserves to eat good food, no matter who you are or where you live.

But sadly, this isn’t always the case, especially in aged care. Despite access to adequate food being one of our most basic human rights, too many elderly Australians are being denied the opportunity to eat the variety of fresh, healthy food that is plentiful in our country.

The recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety unearthed many accounts of substandard meals, with one study finding 68% of residents across 60 Australian aged care services were malnourished, or at risk of malnutrition.

“This leaves much to the discretion of the provider and is not easily enforceable,” they wrote. “How ‘varied’ do meals have to be? What does ‘suitable’ mean?”

While we don’t want to add onerous hurdles in an already highly regulated environment for providers, it is concerning that something so fundamental to our health should be neglected amongst the most vulnerable in our community.

In 2020, the average amount spent on food per resident was $12.23 a day.

On top of ensuring all residents are given food regularly (at least three times a day), the final report recommends that meals should be nutritious and appetising.

So should pleasure – an element of eating we often take for granted. Food is more than consuming calories. When prepared thoughtfully, it has the capacity to create happiness, evoke memories, promote wellbeing and help people connect with one another.

Food should also be accessible to everyone. Many residents need assistance to eat and drink, whether due to lack of cognitive capacity, fine motor issues, difficulty chewing or swallowing disorders.

They also need modified food options that don’t sacrifice nutrition and taste. In many facilities, residents who require texture-modified foods have no option but to eat poor quality meals that are visually unappealing.

To give providers a better alternative, iconic Australian brand SPC has created a range of nutritious fruit snacks specifically designed for people with swallowing or fine motor difficulties.

Called SPC ProVital, the texture-modified range includes additional fibre and protein to support good health, along with the health benefits of high-quality fruit.

It comes in easy-to-open cups that are clearly labelled with IDDSI standard texture definition for Level 4 Pureed to reduce risk of choking hazard.

David Frizzell, SPC Supply Chain Commercialisation Manager, explained the range was created in response to what consumers – particularly Australia’s ageing population – need.

The range was also developed with enjoyment in mind. As a household name fondly remembered by many older Australians, SPC has the ability to create positive eating experiences that are also safe and nutritious.

Leigh McLean, Care Advisor at Manna Care, believes you can’t underestimate the positive power of something as simple as “an old SPC can or a tin or Arnott’s biscuits”.

This not only assists carers in encouraging residents to eat but supports providers in their efforts to improve quality of life of residents.

“Everyone deserves good food,” added Leigh, “it’s just that some people need theirs prepared a little differently.”

To find out more about SPC’s ProVital range, click here or contact SPC’s National Account Manager for Health, Jelica Vrkic, via email at: [email protected]

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  1. Unfortunately the problem is being missed again.

    the biggest problem when we talk about malnutrition in aged care is the dependence of the providers to make a profit.

    So with operational costs being so high, traditionally it’s the catering (hospitality) dept where these cost cuts are made – reduced hours, cheaper food.

    Over the past 20-30 years the amount of documentation (food safety & resident nutritional requirements, compliance, etc, etc) has increased 10 fold for the cooks and catering staff to complete daily. Couple that with minimal/skeletal hours and a dumbing down of qualifications required for catering staff, the result is and always will be SUB STANDARD FOOD.

    Also the industry is perceived as not an attractive work place. Every time we hear about Aged Care in the media it is a negative story!

    it is very difficult to find staff willing to work that are committed and passionate about it.

    so many facilities currently running short staffed every day

    Finally, we can have all the royal commissions we like, we can have all the so called experts including dietitians, celebrity cooks, anyone else with letters behind there name telling us what we should and need to be doing, until the above is fixed it will never happen.

  2. That may be so, but I have just worked through my mother’s (95) monthly menu (she is living in a residential care facility) and I don’t see any of what you suggest. However, I have a friend 91, living at home by choice and with a home care package who I’m sure will be malnourished because no-one is keeping an eye on his nutrition, and he refuses to have Meals on Wheels or similar. Meals are cooked in his home for him but most times they are not eaten and have to be disposed of. So who is worse off?

  3. We will see increasing solutions like the SPC ProVital.
    With technology, smart recruitment and smarter training, nutritious, delicious options can also be made inhouse.

    An issue I am still seeing in residential aged care is a lack of hot and nutrient-dense options at the dining room. If the resident doesnt eat the meal, there is very little for staff to offer at hand. You can only have so much cold yoghurt, cold sandwich/bread and margarine or cold protein drink.

    Increasing consumption of nutritious food requires a systems approach, from supply through to consumption.

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