Aged care menus put to the test

Many South Australians living in residential aged care homes are not getting a food service in keeping with new Aged Care Quality Standards, according to research from Flinders University.

Flinders University nutrition and dietetics research, to be presented during the Australian Association of Gerontology digital conference this month, reports on a 2019 survey of about 400 residents from 20 aged care homes in South Australia about their perceptions of the facility’s food services in light of the new standards.

Just two-thirds of surveyed aged care residents say they always have a choice of food, and only a quarter think their meals are always tasty.

Flinders PhD candidate and accredited practising dietitian Morgan Pankhurst says aged care in Australia is undergoing a culture change with the introduction of consumer-driven standards effective July 2019.

“These not only highlight the role of food quantity and quality in ensuring residents receive adequate nutrition and hydration but, for the first time, now also discuss the importance of resident choice, autonomy and dignity,” she says.

Although many residents felt that they always had adequate choice (66.4%) and variety (44.2%), fewer felt that meals were tasty (25.1%) or appetising (28.4%).

One third (33.3%) thought their food preferences were always met but few (2.6%) felt they had flexibility around meal timing. Less than half (48.8%) felt their feedback or suggestions would always be listened to.

Based on resident perspectives gathered, many centres do not meet the core expectations of the ACQS, the research concludes.

Ms Pankhurst say aged care providers need to work with residents to understand their preferences and expectations.

“It highlights for us as researchers the need to work with homes to help them figure out how they can improve their food systems and what they’re offering to residents.

“It’s not necessarily about spending more money ,” Ms Pankhurst says, adding the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report should also provide insights into improving food services.

“This snapshot highlights some key areas for improvement within the residential aged care food service system. Targeted research can assist homes to develop and institute changes within their resources.”

‘A Snapshot of Food Service in Aged Care Homes Under the New Standards’ (co-authors Dr Alison Yaxley and Professor Michelle Miller) is among a series of presentations by Flinders University experts at the ‘A Climate for Change in Ageing’ AAG 2020 conference , from 18-20 November.



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