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Rating tool aims to improve nutrition in aged care


A new initiative strives to help aged care providers identify food service areas they are excelling at and those requiring improvement.

The Lantern Project, which involves a community of 1,000-plus aged care stakeholders, has developed the evidence-based tool Epicure to provide residential aged care facilities an annual rating on its food, nutrition and mealtime experience.

Epicure was launched at the Lantern Conference at Bond University on the Gold Coast last week.

It collects data through residents’ stories, staff input and onsite observations to provide the rating and identify areas of improvement.

The Lantern Project founder and dietitian Dr Cherie Hugo said Epicure was a combination of seven years of research and collaboration with aged care stakeholders to improve the quality of life of residents through food.

“The aim of it is to simplify the complexity of the food and mealtime experience,” Dr Hugo told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The tool unpacks key areas and touchpoints of food, nutrition and mealtime experiences specific to a facility or organisation and identifies how it sits against the Aged Care Quality Standards, said Dr Hugo, director of My Nutrition Clinic.

Dr Cherie Hugo

“It captures residents’ stories, staff input and observations and pulls that data together for a rating for an aged care home,” Dr Hugo said.

“It will highlight for an aged care organisation where their strengths lie, which can be used in the accreditation process, mapped against standards one to eight where they’re demonstrating evidence from the food, nutrition and mealtime experience,” she said.

“On the flip side, the areas that are identified as weaknesses through resident stories, feedback and our observations are mapped against the quality standards in a quality improvement schedule for the home,” Dr Hugo said.

Following the rating, the Lantern Project team can provide ongoing support or develop a tailored strategy.

All costs are based on individual site needs.

The Lantern Project has submitted a proposal for government funding to help rollout the tool, Ms Hugo said.

The tool will help providers achieve organisational cost savings and reduce the risk of malnutrition among aged care residents, she said.

“We know that one-in-two residents are currently malnourished and we know that when a resident is malnourished the cost of care is two-to-three times more than nourished residents.

“Homes are incurring large costs through higher risks of pressure injuries, falls, hospital readmissions and medications so targeting and prioritising food and nutrition is a safe investment,” Dr Hugo said.

Industry supports tool

Industry peaks Leading Age Services Australia, the Aged Care Guild and Aged and Community Services Australia have added their support to the initiative.

“LASA will support the Lantern Project to expand the nutrition and mealtime experience in the age services industry and give providers an assessment tool that measures, assesses, responds to and monitors malnutrition, food, mealtime satisfaction and resident quality of life,” a spokesperson for LASA told AAA.

Aged Care Guild national policy manager Nicholas Brown told AAA: “The Lantern Project’s Epicure is a great resource for providers to make sure they are meeting the food experience expectations of their residents.”

“ACSA supports the Lantern Project and its mission to help aged care providers offer the best possible food and nutrition to residents,” ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow told AAA.

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