May 18, 2022

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

SPC malnutrition sponsored article

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.

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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.

  4. The food in Aged Care varies considerably. Some of the food is excellent but unfortunately some of the food our dog would not eat. Regular exercise, proper pain relief and the appropriate treatment of mental illness in particular depression may help older people eat more. This is a complex problem which requires an individualised approach. Obviously the food in some Aged Care facilities is appalling but this does not explain malnutrition in some of the private facilities where the food is excellent.

    1. We all agree the food that provided is worse then prisoner’s get but No one is mention this is a Neglect. Why do facilities have. Standards so they can print them out put them put on walls so everyone can see them it’s a shame they don’t read them because
      Am a care staff I know the standards but am sure as shit management don’t I can’t see any dietitian put out a menu of frozen processed Garbage daily WHAT HAPPENED TO FRESH IS BEST maybe management should put up the photo for the food resident are actually getting
      What a disgrace are elderly are treated with such disregard it’s make me sick And before anyone say why don’t I complain I have to the cook the Manager the HR to the Manager above them I sent them photo of the disgusting Garbage that served they were more piss off I had photo Not a Care about what the food was. And no not because of government cuts because they have plenty of money our management just got a car port built so her car doesn’t get wet when it rains 🤬

  5. I don’t believe for a second that nursing home residents are malnourished routinely but how about this..
    Why not have the health department come up with a menu, four week revolving menu, a seasonal alternative etc for all homes to follow!

    On Monday every home in the country is having sausage casserole, peaches and cream etc etc.
    Then there could be a real comparison and costing and these unsupported stories of sub standard food and lack of nutrition could be put to bed.
    There are so many ethnic groups in aged care now that it would be virtually impossible to please everyone on every occasion…just like living in any community anywhere.

    1. That’s better then what their getting now You are obviously in management. Please all care staff put up your hands if you agree the food is Healthy Nutritional. Fresh wholesome. I bet 85%. Will tell you not
      So because their all different groups of people They get served crap that the excuse. So don’t please anyone that what your saying. Come on. If you believe that why don’t facilities show on their website the real menu not the bulshit Tarted up make it look like five stars Tell residents family’s oh their choice your mum or dad can have a spring roll or a party pie or chicken wings And if they are really lucky they can have a bloody sandwich sandwich with cheese Nope not a salad or fresh vegetables. No no no sorry

  6. The food in aged care is appalling the evening meal is always frozen processed crap frozen spring rolls frozen party pies frozen wedges frozen They don’t even give choice. The residents in the facility i work at
    Give one spring roll a piece of toast and pack soup I have complained many many time just going straight under the carpet I have photos of the meals but management only care I have the photo they Are not shock at what been served. It’s completely appalling family member would be horrified at what their family are been given


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