Aged care residents and their families will soon have more power to hold nursing homes accountable for providing substandard food, according to a recent announcement by Aged Care Minister Anika Wells.
The government plans to improve the “food, nutrition and dining experience” in residential aged care through a $12.9 million funding package. This will include the establishment of a new hotline for complaints and advice starting in July, which will help ensure that residents are offered nutritious meals.
The government’s $12.9 million funding, part of a historic $36 billion aged care budget, will deliver a range of meaningful measures to enhance the quality of food for older people. The new Food, Nutrition, and Dining Advisory Support Unit will coordinate up to 720 provider spot checks annually, with 10% of spot checks of the highest-risk services having accompanying dietitians.
Nutrition experts and dietitians will also be assessing up to 500 menus from nursing home providers to ensure that its residents are receiving nutritionally balanced meals, which will be established within the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
The support unit will triage hotline calls based on the nature and level of risk to older people and will also link providers with support and education programs delivered by accredited practising dietitians.
To ensure that providers are following these new guidelines, 700 on-site spot checks will be conducted each year, and up to 500 menus will be assessed by nutritionists. New dietary guidelines and resources will also be developed for older people to support those receiving in-home care or living in a nursing home.
“Older people have a right to enjoy quality food and will now have a simple way to report inadequate food,” Wells said.
“This $12.9 million investment will increase the capability and accountability of aged care providers to deliver good food and nutrition.”
“They will support consumers with a dedicated food hotline for food complaints and advice, and providers, by linking them with education programs, and we recognise the need to work lock-step with dietitians to lift the quality of food and nutrition in residential aged care.”
The new hotline comes after the Aged Care Royal Commission’s final 2021 report highlighted the importance of enhancing nutrition for older adults in aged care. In September of that same year, Dietitians Australia urged the government to enforce mandatory nutrition screening in nursing homes.