External pressures will increase the focus on food and the dining experience

There’s no doubt aged care providers have a lot on their plate right now.

A Royal Commission, new quality standards, the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) and a fundamental change in the way the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission conducts assessments will put the spotlight on the resident dining experience like never before.

At its second hearing, the Royal Commission heard accounts of a surge in non-compliance relating to food and nutrition in 2017-18. This is largely due to two factors:

  1. Quality assessors have changed the way they conduct reviews, moving away from the tick-and-flick approach to sitting down in the dining room and observing how residents eat and interact with care staff
  2. There has been more than a 300 per cent increase in the number of unannounced quality assessments over the same period

Now is not the time for complacency

This increased focus on food, nutrition and the dining experience will likely continue when the new Aged Care Quality Standards come into effect in July this year.

Under the new model of consumer directed care, choices around food and quality feature prominently. The new Aged Care Quality Standard 4.6 explicitly states: ‘where meals are provided, they are (to be) varied and of suitable quality and quantity.’

How the terms ‘varied’ and ‘suitable quality and quantity’ will be interpreted is still unknown, but it’s clear that aged care providers will need to demonstrate choice through a varied menu, as well as catering for the complex dietary needs and preferences of its residents.

The introduction of IDDSI in May this year will add yet another layer of complexity. Aged care providers who adopt the standards must ensure current textures are accurately mapped to new IDDSI standards. For those using manual or spreadsheet-based menu management, this could prove to be a logistical nightmare.

Training and upskilling care and catering staff should be a priority

The dining experience is broad and goes well beyond food simply being prepped in the kitchen and served to residents. Displaying the menu, explaining meal choices to residents, seating residents correctly and ensuring food is appropriately presented are all part of the dining experience. Importantly, being mindful of the dignity of residents, especially those on texture modified foods, will be key.

True hospitality means every resident feels welcomed, regardless of their individual dietary or physical needs.

In our next and final article, we examine how digital technology and online training are transforming one of the most costly and labour intensive parts of an aged care business.

About SoupedUp

SoupedUp is Australia’s leading catering software and online training provider to the aged care industry. Our proven technology solutions save facilities time and money^, while reducing the risks associated with food service quality and delivery in an aged care setting. To learn more about SoupedUp’s solutions visit www.soupedup.com

^ Time and cost savings based on an aged care facility of 80-90 beds, including subscription fees. Source data based on average time and costs spent by 24 facilities switching from paper based system to SoupedUp Catering.