With around 50% of aged care residents suffering from malnutrition, Dieticians Australia is urging the stretched sector to add food to its priorities throughout the current crisis.
Currently, more is spent on prisoners’ food than on aged care residents’ food, the organisation suggests.
According to Chief Executive Officer of Dietitians Australia Robert Hunt, malnutrition in the aged care sector has long been of concern to the organisation.
“It’s a shame that our nation would spend $10 a day feeding prisoners and only $6 a day feeding our elderly.
“Our heart goes out to the people living in the affected aged care facilities, as well as those working in the sector who aren’t receiving the assistance they need to manage this situation,” he said.
Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Subject Lead in Aged Care for Dietitians Australia has urged the federal government to regulate and monitor nutritional standards within aged care settings more tightly.
While $3.4 billion was allocated in the form of a Basic Daily Fee (BDF) Supplement to improve “aged care services”, at last year’s budget, Julie Dundon said the scheme, which delivers $10 per day per resident for food, needs to be increased.
Yet Ms Dundon said that the money was not required to be spent on food and that it could be spent on anything.
“There’s no strings attached – the only string is to make that report every quarter.”
Yet according to Ms Dundon one of the optional questions in the report requires a detailed understanding of protein distribution in the meals cooked for aged care, something that she argued could only be analysed by a nutritional expert like an APD.
“Most people who work in aged care won’t be able to answer that accurately, and it’s self-reported data, so I’m not sure… how anyone is going to answer that question, if they don’t engage a dietitian because that’s actually what we do,” she said.
Ms Dundon said mandating the engagement of a dietitian to assess and report on food spending and Dietitians Australia’s proposal for onsite meal assessments and malnutrition screening would help to accurately assess and maintain resident’s nutritional status and report to government.
Ms Dundon’s comments come as Dietitian Australian renews its push for an increased emphasis on nutrition as part of aged care services, with around 50% or more of residents estimated to be experiencing malnutrition, which Ms Dundon explained often fell outside of current weight-based screening protocols.
“We know malnutrition is far more than weight,” she said.
“People who maintain their weight can still be malnourished, and it’s all of those people we’re not identifying… [people who are] filling up on carbs and fat, and no protein, their muscles are wasting, and then they’re malnourished.
“We’re not recording that, and it’s quite puzzling as to what the barriers are.”
Ms Dundon also said Dietitian Australia’s were pushing for nutritional guidelines in both aged and home care settings, suggesting that such guidelines would help give clarity for both APD’s and staff working in the relevant care settings.
CEO of Dietitians Australia, Robert Hunt, echoed this push in a statement earlier this week, stating that politicians “don’t need a taskforce” to address existing problems with malnutrition.
“We’ve identified practical measures that government can take to ensure all residents are adequately fed in the future,” Mr Hunt said.