The focus on food and nutrition for aging people is increasing, with more transparency and accountability required of aged care providers. As part of the Aged Care Strengthened Quality Standards, providers will need to work with Accredited Practicing Dietitians to develop and have each aged care facility menu reviewed at least annually.
Understanding nutritional needs in ageing
The nutritional needs of ageing people are different to the general population. Older people need access to higher levels of some key nutrients for dietary health, such as protein and calcium. Additionally, older people can experience changes to taste, smell and appetite which can affect food intake.
Why is dietitian input into menus and the dining experience necessary?
Research shows around 50% of older Australians in aged care are malnourished and up to 50% of older Australians are at risk of malnutrition when living in the community.
This is of great concern, considering malnutrition is associated with reduced quality of life, increased hospitalisations and poor health outcomes. Increasing the focus on food and nutrition is key to reducing the prevalence of malnutrition within our older populations.
The impact of mealtime experiences on wellbeing
In addition to meeting the specific dietary needs of older people, mealtimes offer an important opportunity for social interaction and improving wellbeing. When mealtimes are enjoyable, they can often be the highlight of an aged care resident’s day.
An enjoyable dining experience has many facets:
- Providing appealing, flavoursome and varied food and drink options to all residents (food first is highly important)
- Creating a mealtime environment that is welcoming, fosters a sense of belonging and supports each resident to do their best with their meal.
- Having choice available to all residents, including what, when, where and how they eat and drink
- Partnering with residents as part of menu planning processes
The role of dietitians in aged care
Plena Healthcare Dietitians can support providers to provide a nutritious and enjoyable mealtime experience for residents and consumers, while meeting the requirements of the Aged Care Strengthened Quality Standards.
Our support includes recommendations and guidance on how to strengthen your menu and dining experience to deliver better nutrition for those in long-term care. As part of the Standards, providers will be required to ensure menus consider the specific needs of older people and that they are reviewed at least annually by a dietitian.
Plena Healthcare Dietitians work with you to implement nutritional programs as per the guidelines and adapt them to individual needs of residents.
Dietetic services are available to ensure your meal plans meet the nutritional needs of residents, including:
- Menu Review (menu and mealtime assessment)
- Individual Resident Consultation