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Inadequate nutrition in aged care food for thought

Photo: Inadequate nutrition in aged care highlighted in report
Nutritional standards in aged care have come under scrutiny with the release of the 'Food for Thought: Nutrition & Hydration in Resident Aged Care' by the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA), which highlights the risk of malnutrition among residents due to nutritional deficiency and staff shortages.

In light of the report, aged care nurses have called for increased nutritional care standards and safe staffing to be implemented to achieve better health outcomes in residential aged care facilities (RACF).

NSWNMA Acting General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said 35% of aged care members reported they didn’t have enough time to help a resident eat or drink as a result of competing workloads.

“This report paints a very stark picture of daily life for aged care residents,” Ms Kiejda said.
“Mealtime, which should provide social engagement and enjoyment for residents, is often hampered by understaffing.

"Aged care residents are more prone to becoming malnourished, dehydrated and deprived of an opportunity to connect with others because the majority of nursing staff are being run off their feet.

"It is worrying that 29% of our members surveyed had transferred a resident to a hospital due to dehydration or malnutrition within the past year.

“We also know skills mix is also a contributing factor, particularly in residential aged care facilities with only one registered nurse employed for over 150 residents.

“Staff in these facilities were 12% more likely to lack time to help residents eat and drink, compared to facilities with a ratio of one registered nurse to less than 50 residents.

"Nutrition is not a luxury item; it is an essential element of basic care and a human right.

“Without adequate nurse staffing, guidance and regulation our elderly are not receiving the care and compassion they should be afforded in residential aged care settings,” said Ms Kiejda.

The report highlights that despite the increased nutritional requirements, evidence suggests the daily average spend on food per resident, per day is as little as $6, much less than other healthcare settings.

An Assistant in Nursing, identified as a staff member for a rural for-profit RACF, stated in the report that cut-backs on staffing and food impacted negatively on staff and residents. 

“I have had to feed residents mash and gravy only, due to the fact the kitchen didn't make enough food.

“Our large fridge broke down, and we had no milk for tea and coffee and no salads.

“Aged care needs big changes and stop putting fees up when the quality and quantity is not there.

“Our facility was great when I first started, we had everything, and the staff morale was high, and residents were happy - now we all want out.”

The NSWNMA is part of an ongoing national campaign for minimum staff to resident ratios to be introduced across the aged care sector. For details, visit www.ratiosforagedcare.com.au.

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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.