A national congress on food in aged care is bringing together local and international experts to explore the relationship between good food, nutrition and the dining experience.
Next month’s joint Maggie Beer Foundation and Department of Health initiative provides an opportunity for a hand-picked group of experts and aged care stakeholders to share knowledge and best-practice examples.
The congress aims to help the health department design policy that helps aged care homes improve food, nutrition and the dining experience of residents.
Cook, author and mentor Maggie Beer said the congress was an important way to share the knowledge and expertise of all the key stakeholders with the aged care sector.
“Quite often people work in silos and there isn’t a forum for the sharing of knowledge and the discussion of what the solutions and things we need to know are,” Ms Beer told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“There are many people both individually and in [aged care] homes doing wonderful things. We should be using those as benchmarks as well as the sharing of information and giving them the kudos and respect,” said Ms Beer.
Ms Beer said food in aged care has evolved since she established the Maggie Beer Foundation in 2014 but while some providers are doing it brilliantly others, as highlighted by the royal commission, are not.
“There are many that are doing it well and are incredibly committed. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who want to do it better that have all sorts of brick walls presented to them. It’s important that we find ways to tear those brick walls down,” Ms Beer said.
Improving the food experience in aged care starts with the belief that it is vital to do so and continues by training chefs and sharing information, she said.
Creating a food forum where an aged care home’s health professionals, cooks or chefs, management and residents take part in the food journey together is one thing facilities can do to lift their game in relation to food and the dining experience, said Ms Beer.
“Once you have a collective force, then the other things will come.”
Ms Beer said she hoped the congress would help collaboratively form an improved food and dining experience.
“It is very exciting to get everyone together and listen to everyone’s point of view and come out with a better paradigm,” Ms Beer said.
The National Congress on food, nutrition and the dining experience in aged care is an invitation-only event taking place on 18 February at the International Convention Centre, Sydney.
Invitees include senior representatives from aged care peak bodies and providers, academics, industry leaders and experts and people with a lived experience of aged care food and dining. The event include speakers from Australia, North America and Europe.
Position statements outline key issues
Dietitians Australia, the national peak body representing dietitians, has released eight position statements to highlight key aged care food and nutrition issues ahead of the congress.
The position statements, released on Thursday, make a series of recommendations in eight areas to ensure older Australians receive the best possible nutrition (see below).
They call for regular malnutrition screening from the time of admission, a national policy of nutrition care in aged care with funding for accredited dietitians and annual nutrition training for aged care staff.
Mandatory malnutrition screening with nutrition management by dietitians using a food-first approach will improve the quality of life for aged care residents and could provide more than $80 million in savings, Dietitians Australia said in the position statements.
Advanced accredited practising dietitian Julie Dundon said older Australians had a right to food that was nutritious, familiar and culturally and medically appropriate.
“These position statements highlight how dietitians can provide support across the spectrum of aged care and help improve the health and quality of life of our aging population. This includes mandatory malnutrition screening – and quarterly re-screening – which should be embedded within community care and aged care homes,” said Ms Dundon, an aged care subject matter lead at Dietitians Australia.
“Weight loss and malnutrition are not natural parts of ageing. It is vital that we take action to tackle this costly issue. Regular screening will help stop malnutrition in its tracks and prompt aged care homes to address the issues which are contributing to malnutrition,” she said.
The eight areas covered are:
- the importance of food in aged care
- malnutrition in aged care
- consumer choice and dignity
- oral health, swallowing and hydration in aged care
- menu planning and innovation in aged care
- food production and presentation in aged care
- mealtimes and dining experience in aged care
- aged care staff skills and training.
Access the position statements here.