Oct 03, 2020

Do not forget food: the essential ingredient in health and wellbeing of older Australians

The importance of providing nutritious food and satisfying mealtimes in the wellbeing of older Australians must be recognised if the recommendations from the Royal Commission’s report into the  impact of COVID-19 on aged care are to improve quality of life for residents. 

Allied health practitioners such as Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) must be engaged in aged care homes, with the wider reaching role of food provision also prioritised.  

This week’s report by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommends  increased access for allied health practitioners to support aged care residents.  

Whilst a positive move, the creation of new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items must be beyond  that of the current funding model to adequately address the true nutritional needs of older  Australians during a pandemic. 

“MBS items address concerns for individual residents – but a dietitian’s role within an aged care  home is much greater than one-on-one care. They champion food and nutrition for all residents  working with all involved in food provision, from the catering service, nursing, and personal care staff through to cleaning and infection control. It requires an expert and coordinated system to ensure  practical, safe food solutions are in place for each resident to receive meals that are appropriate for  their health and dietary needs,” said Robert Hunt, CEO of Dietitians Australia.  

“For dietitians to make an impact, funding needs to cover both an individual consultation and the  whole food service system.” 

Food must be prioritised, particularly during times of uncertainty, as it nourishes both physical and  mental health. In times of loneliness and isolation, meals are a source of comfort to residents. When  this is removed, the impact on mental health impacts is exacerbated.  

“It was devastating to hear reports of people not being fed, or no support being provided to those  who require assistance to eat and drink safely. Inadequate intake of food leads to malnutrition,  lowering the ability to fight infection as well as affecting mood. This creates a downwards spiral,  further decreasing appetite and exacerbating poor physical and mental health,” said Hunt.  

“While the focus of this pandemic is on infection control, we must think of how this impacts food  service. Each home needs to have a plan to ensure they can continue to provide appropriate food  and care to residents during an emergency,” said Hunt 

This would ensure residents will be safely and adequately fed and protect the health of both staff  and residents.  

“Food touches everyone in an aged care home – from administration, kitchen staff, nursing staff and  allied health professionals. We all have a part to play to ensure residents can access individual nutrition care and have a robust food service system in place to support their requirements,” said  Hunt. 

“The loss of older Australians during this pandemic is devastating. Being able to prioritise food and  nutrition is vital to help prevent further casualties or exacerbation of poor health in aged care  residents – and this is where APDs can help.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Banner Banner

Neglect… it must stop in aged care

The title of today’s Interim Report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, ‘Neglect’, encapsulates aged care in Australia. Unfortunately, it’s that simple – the history of aged care in Australia is a story of woeful and increasing neglect, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF). The Commission’s Interim Report... Read More

It’s not clinical, nurses care for the “whole person”

When registered nurse Cristine Andana was caring for an elderly gentleman in the final days of his life, the emotional care she gave to his only remaining family member, his daughter, became just as important and meaningful as the clinical care she was providing. “I was looking after a resident who was dying. His wife... Read More

Has RUCS spelt the end of Physiotherapy in Aged Care?

By Simon Kerrigan, Managing Director | Physiotherapist at Guide Healthcare. In late 2017, I sat with optimism as Professor Kathy Eagar from the University of Wollongong presented her findings on the Aged Care Funding Instrument and proposed alternate models. As a physiotherapist, I’ve been frustrated with the ACFI since commencing my first aged care role in... Read More
Banner Banner