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The country’s peak body for dietitians and nutritionists, Dietitians Australia, has released eight new position statements outlining key recommendations to ensure older Australians living in aged care receive the best possible nutrition.

Released today, ahead of next month’s National Congress on Food, Nutrition, and the Dining Experience in aged care, which is being run by the Department of Health and Maggie Beer Foundation, the position statements tackle a range of issues including malnutrition, consumer choice and dignity, menu planning, mealtimes and dining experience in aged care, and the skills and training required by aged care staff.

Dietitians Australia argues engaging accredited practicing dietitians to support food and nutrition in aged care would save more than $80 million per year and help avoid subsequent “costly” malnutrition treatment.

Advanced APD Julie Dundon, an Aged Care Subject Matter Lead at Dietitians Australia, said older Australians have a right to food that is nutritious, familiar, culturally and medically appropriate, and appetising, that is delivered in an enjoyable setting.

The positon statements highlight how dieticians can help support better food and nutrition in aged care and improve health and quality of life, she said. This includes “mandatory malnutrition screening… and quarterly re-screening”, which should be embedded within aged care settings.

“Weight loss and malnutrition are not natural parts of ageing. It is vital that we take action to tackle this costly issue. Regular screening will help stop malnutrition in its tracks and prompt aged care homes to address the issues which are contributing to malnutrition,” Ms Dundon said.

“These position statements highlight how dietitians can provide support across the spectrum of aged care and help improve the health and quality of life of our ageing population.”

The release of the positions statements is not Dietitians Australia’s first intervention into aged care policy and practice for 2021.

Earlier this month, the organisation’s most recent virtual issue of its Nutrition and Dietetics Journal also focused on nutrition and aged care, featuring peer-reviewed material that addresses clinical conditions like diabetes and policy frameworks such as the National Meal Guidelines, among other topics.

Aged care is set to remain a key discussion point across the country this year, with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety scheduled to deliver its final report by February 26, after two years of submissions and hearings.

Read the position statements here