The conversations of life

Do we need a new approach to food in aged care?


There have been a number of stories in this media this week focusing on the quality of food based on a report published in July last year. It showed aged care facilities spent an average of $6.08 on residents’ meals per day while making $1 billion in profits.

The report compared this to the average of $8.25 a day being spent in our prisons on meals. Understandably, this has caused widespread concern for residents and their families.

They are worrying figures, but we feel the media stories are slightly misleading.

If you look at the report, the average daily spend per resident on catering costs – including food, ingredients, supplements and meal replacements – grew from $7.52 to $8, a six per cent increase.

Aged care providers are also not raking in money. The Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) did report a $1.1 billion profit in 2015-16, but the actual surplus was $647 million or a four per cent net profit margin – a relatively small figure.

The challenge of keeping residents nourished

The fact is it is not easy trying to keep weight on elderly residents. Most of us lose muscle mass when we get older which can affect our balance and make us more prone to falls. Many also have difficulty swallowing, particularly people with dementia.

This can limit the foods that residents can eat – and makes it much harder for providers to create appetising meals for them.

At agedcare101, we always advise people considering aged care to visit facilities during meal times so they can look at the quality of food and how it is served to residents.

As the media reports highlight, there are some facilities where the meals are not acceptable and that is not good enough.

Peak body Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) has called for the Federal Government to fund a project to identify new models for food services in aged care.

We support this idea. It’s time to make sure all of our loved ones are well-fed and nourished – and for the Government to back this up.

Jill Donaldson

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.

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