Do you have a family member who lives in a residential aged care facility?
Many people report that at times they worry about their loved one’s health and quality of food provided.
Recently, it was found that over half of nursing home residents are either at risk of malnutrition or are malnourished, with as little as $6 a day being allocated to food funding.
The recent Royal Commission into Aged Care was established to look into the quality and safety of aged care in Australia, with a call for fundamental reform of the aged care system. There is a strong focus on the importance of food and nutrition, including to help minimise the risk of infections, pressure injuries, anaemia, low blood pressure, confusion and impaired cognition, decreased wound healing and bone fractures. It also focuses on ensuring meals provided by nursing homes are varied and of suitable quality and quantity.
Malnutrition refers to when a person’s diet does not provide enough nutrients or the right balance of nutrients for optimal health. Malnutrition can occur for many different reasons including inadequate or inappropriate dietary choices, physical conditions that impact on eating or mental health conditions.
Undernutrition is one type of malnutrition and occurs when the body does not get enough food. It can lead to delayed healing, low weight or muscle wastage. If a person does not get the right balance of nutrients, they can also have malnutrition. It is possible to be a healthy weight or even overweight and still be malnourished.
When a person has too little food, a limited diet, or a condition that stops their body from obtaining the right balance of nutrients, it can have a severe impact on their health. In some cases, this can become life threatening.
Early Signs of Malnutrition
All Residential Aged Care Facilities should have a malnutrition screening tool in place. However, understanding what malnutrition can look like may help you to identify early signs of malnutrition in your loved one.
Some signs to look for include:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Have their clothes, belts or jewelry become looser?
- Decreased or poor appetite
- Have they started eating less?
- Lack of interest in food and drink
- Have they lost the enjoyment around eating?
- Feeling tired all the time
- Are they sleeping more than usual?
- Declined ability to concentrate or focus
- Do they find it harder to hold a conversation with you?
- Getting ill more often and taking a longer time to recover
- Are they getting sick regularly?
- Wounds taking a long time to heal
- Do they have ongoing wound injuries?
- Low mood
- Do they seem disconnected?
Dietitians are experts in diagnosing malnutrition and providing management to prevent further complications. Depending on the individual resident, interventions may include changes to their current diet to include more energy & protein, added nutrition supplements to food (food fortification) or the prescription of oral nutrition supplements.
Optimum Intake Dietitians take’s pride in looking at the whole food service system in Residential Aged Care Facilities to address risk of malnutrition & management for individual residents. We are the connection between clinical staff and the food service staff to improve outcomes for residents. We aim to achieve an excellent nutrition service in our facilities to improve the quality of life in our residents. If you are concerned about a family member of yours in a residential aged care home, please contact us on 0499008451. We work alongside many facilities in the local and surrounding areas.