Nov 22, 2022

Family members asked to share their thoughts on aged care meals

Family members asked to share their thoughts on aged care meals

Researchers from Flinders University have launched a brand new questionnaire targeted at families of aged care residents which will be used to improve the quality of food being served.

The Food Service Satisfaction Questionnaire features 40 questions focused on the satisfaction of the food service provided to a family member living in aged care. It is seeking feedback on whether families are satisfied with menu options, dietary considerations and even the temperature of meals delivered.

Flinders University previously surveyed chefs and cooks in aged care settings, as well as 400 aged care residents, and it found that only two-thirds of residents felt they always had a choice in meals, and just one-quarter said meals were always tasty.

Dr Morgan Pankhurst, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Research Associate, said that research also revealed family members lacked formalised ways to provide feedback on their family member’s food options. 

“It became clear that there are residents who cannot advocate for themselves,” said Dr Pankhurst.

“Sometimes it’s cognitive impairment, sometimes it’s fear of repercussion; they’re the silent generation, they were raised not to speak out. 

“But many of these residents will speak to their families to express their concerns. 

“That puts the family member in a position where they need to be a proxy or advocate but there was no formalised way to capture their feedback.”

The new questionnaire is focused on a wide range of topics, including:

  • The food on the plate (appearance, temperature, taste, etc)
  • Choice and variety (e.g. is the food culturally appropriate)
  • Food autonomy (does the resident have access to food 24/7)
  • Participation (can they be involved in food preparation to feel helpful)
  • Staff support (is there enough staff to help at meal times)
  • Reliability (is your loved one receiving the meals they order)

Dr Pankhurst and her colleagues are aiming for 400 responses to the latest survey, and once the research is finalised in early 2023, will present it to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. 

But she said this research is not the end of the road as they hope this questionnaire can be utilised by all aged care providers to improve their meal standards.

“A lot of aged care homes are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Dr Pankhurst.

“The new Aged Care Quality Standards require providers to seek feedback from stakeholders and consumers and yet they’re not provided with a formal way to do that.

“These homes are making up their own questionnaires and there’s huge variability. 

“We believe that [our] questionnaires can provide valuable information to aged care facilities to make appropriate changes.

“Our dream is if we can get these questionnaires mandated in every home then there’s a national benchmarking platform so administrators, organisations and consumers can see which homes are performing really well on the services that matter, including food.”

With feedback from family members and residents, aged care providers will be better placed to make appropriate changes to their food and nutrition options. 

Current struggles with food standards impact the Government’s Consumer Experience Interviews (CEIs) which only focus on one aspect of aged care meals, using the question ‘do you like the food here?’. 

The consumer interviews then form the basis of a facility’s star rating, so any aspect of the food that a resident does not like could impact a facility’s reputation.

Dr Pankhurst said it’s essential that facilities can identify the exact areas that need improvement, and be able to measure the impact of changes. 

“How do you identify where the improvements need to be made when it’s a yes or no question?”

She highlighted an example of a well-meaning aged care facility that introduced visual menus for residents but opted for stock images off the internet and was therefore unable to achieve the positive change they thought they could make.

“Aged care homes, because they don’t have these tools, are coming up with what they think are improvements to the food service,” said Dr Pankhurst.

“They had an ice cream sundae and the image was a beautiful parfait glass from the internet that was Instagram-worthy but what the residents received was a scoop of ice cream in a plastic bowl with some topping. 

“We know that our satisfaction with the meal often depends on our expectations and if we’re expecting a beautiful parfait glass and get a hospital [quality] service then that’s setting the residents up to be disappointed.”

The survey is designed to support facilities with information on where family members believe improvements need to occur, in line with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s calls for continuous improvement of standards and service.

If you would like to participate in the survey, or know someone who would, more information is available on the Flinders University website

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  1. You can send as many questionnaires you like. Know one will speak out about the food
    They live their. They are to frighten to complain they see what happens to staff that complain they are bullied and story made up about them by managers and they say see nothing to see here the residents love the food. Please my dog eat better

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