“A Step in the Right Direction” Dietitians weigh in on Royal Commission final report

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Aged Care Royal Commission Final Report recommends changes for nutrition in aged care
Image: Stella de Smit on Unsplash

The Aged Care Royal Commission final report misses the mark regarding food and nutrition, say some industry professionals.

As many as 68 per cent of people in residential aged care are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, according to the final report. Titled Care, Dignity and Respect, the report provides several recommendations on nutrition including engaging at least one dietitian per aged care home and increasing food funding.

The report said “Too often we heard that residential aged care providers failed to meet the nutritional needs of people for whom they care and that they provided poor quality and unappetising food.”

Dietitian Dr Cherie Hugo, founder of aged care advocacy group The Lantern Project, said on Facebook that the recommendations don’t address the complexity of the issue.  

“Increasing food spend will not fix the problem.”

“In my professional opinion the coverage of aged care food, nutrition and dining experience across the Royal Commission was nothing short of appalling,” she said.

“One day out of 870 – that’s 0.2 per cent of time devoted to the royal commission – related to food and nutrition.”

Aged care nutrition “a very complex puzzle”

In a series of Facebook posts responding to the final report, Dr Hugo said “increasing food spend will not fix the problem. It may help a little, but food budget is one very small piece of a very complex puzzle that we know intimately through our 8 years of research on this topic.”

Dr Cherie Hugo of The Lantern Project responds to the Royal Commission Final Report

She also said proper nutrition “would help to reduce most of the other issues identified in the report”.

“Expectations of improved Quality Care outcomes in the future based on a poor foundation of suboptimal food and nutrition is the definition of madness.”

Dietitians weigh in on recommendations

Simone Austin, Senior Dietetic Advisor at Dietitians Australia, said the report was “definitely a start”.

“We were very happy to see that food and nutrition were recognised as red flags.”

“We were very happy to see that food and nutrition were recognised as red flags,” she said.

Dietitian Simone Austin says Final Report is a positive step to better nutrition in aged care

“Another thing that was really important was one recommendation that approved aged care providers will need to employ or retain at least one of a range of allied health professionals, including a dietitian. So that’s certainly a step in the right direction.

“We would like it to say that malnutrition screening is going to be compulsory. And it
doesn’t say that specifically. But it does talk about screening and and updating the quality standards. And we would hope that within updating those quality standards that we could implement things that we recommend such as compulsory malnutrition screening tools.”

Ms Austin said the extra funding recommended ($10 extra per resident per day) would be best spent on “food that will be prepared, rather than supplements.”

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