Assessing food quality in aged care homes

Families of aged care residents in Australian nursing homes can now provide feedback about the quality of meals their loved ones are eating, as part of leading research targeting improvements in food and nutrition in aged care homes.

Dietitians at Flinders University are seeking 400 participants who have a relative living in an aged care home to complete a short online questionnaire about satisfaction levels with the meals and dining experience.

With the government increasingly scrutinising aged care food, the research aims to provide aged care providers with detailed feedback about how they can facilitate improvements in the quality of their meals and measure the impact of these improvements.

The research is seeking feedback on whether families are satisfied with menu offerings, food temperature, whether dietary and cultural considerations are being met and other relevant factors.

Focusing on overall family experiences for the first time, the food satisfaction survey is important and timely given the recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that determined 1 in 10 aged care residents have experienced unplanned weight loss, alongside other reports that expenditure on food in aged care remains inadequate.

Lead researcher and Advanced Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Professor Michelle Miller, says food has zero nutritional value if it is not eaten, therefore initiatives to improve the quality of food served to residents are desperately needed.

“One such initiative is the development of food service satisfaction questionnaires which can help aged care homes measure the impact of their quality improvement activities.”

Dr Morgan Pankhurst, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, developed one of these questionnaires as part of her PhD and says the research project will enable comprehensive feedback from family members dissatisfied with meal options in order to improve the quality of food provided in aged care.

The program of research aims to enable aged care homes to gather feedback for quality improvement activities, which is a requirement embedded in the Aged Care Quality Standards. It’s a matter that needs to be addressed with urgency, underlined by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety having received more than 10,000 submissions – with a quarter relating to food being served to aged care residents.

“We’re excited to now expand the program to reach family members who are often in a position where they represent the resident, yet their voices are often left unheard. Our food service satisfaction questionnaire from the family perspective provides this important voice, this is a world first and one we are very excited about,” says Dr Pankhurst.

Professor Michelle Miller added that “ultimately, we would like to see the family questionnaire alongside our other validated questionnaires being used by every aged care home in Australia, so that residents receive the highest quality of food services possible and are satisfied with what they receive.”

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College of Nursing and Health Sciences News Research

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