Nursing home residents and their families will soon have the ability to report aged care providers for serving substandard meals, with a new food ‘hotline’ headlining a range of measures announced yesterday by the federal government to lift the standard of food and nutrition in the sector.
The $12.9 million investment, part of the $36 billion aged care package within the 2023-24 federal budget, will see a new Food, Nutrition and Dining and Support Unit established in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, staffed by specialists including dietitians.
Other measures to combat malnutrition in aged care and improve the dining experience for residents include 720 annual spot checks on aged care providers to ensure they’re offering nutritious meals, linking providers with education programs, and engaging Dementia Australia experts to promote nutrition and food enjoyment for people living with the disease.
Meanwhile, the new unit will also facilitate up to 500 menu and mealtime assessments, conducted by independent dietitians, to increase aged care providers’ knowledge and capability to deliver nutritionally balanced menus. And new dietary guidelines and resources for older people will be developed.
“Older people have a right to enjoy quality food and will now have a simple way to report inadequate food,” Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said.
“The new Food, Nutrition and Dining Advisory Support Unit in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will be staffed by specialists, including those with dietetic clinical expertise.”
The new hotline for complaints and advice will start in July and will triage calls based on the nature and level of risk to older people.
“They will support consumers with a dedicated food hotline for food complaints and advice, and providers, by linking them with education programs, and we recognise the need to work lock-step with dietitians to lift the quality of food and nutrition in residential aged care.”
Dietitians Australia President Tara Diversi welcomed the announcement, saying it signalled the start of significant Government-led engagement of accredited practising dietitians in aged care in Australia.
“As a profession, we’ve been advocating for better food and nutrition in aged care since well before the Royal Commission,” she said.
“Today’s announcement is momentous for us, it clearly demonstrates this Government is listening to the experts in food and nutrition, accredited practising dietitians, and is committed to taking the actions needed to advance the nutrition needs of Australians in residential aged care.
“The only way to guarantee nutritious food is being eaten in aged care is to engage dietitians and the steps announced today will enable more of us to reach and support nutrition management at the homes where it is needed most.”