A shortage of nourishing food has been highlighted as a major concern in aged care.
A shortage of nourishing food has been highlighted as a major concern in aged care. GaryAlvis

Commission highlights malnutrition crisis in aged care

ONE in four submissions to the Royal Commission into Aged Care outline accounts of appalling food and high rates of malnutrition in aged care.

The shocking evidence detailed in the Commission's interim report shows the critical need to elevate nutrition within all aspects of aged care to adequately nourish older Australians.

The Commission's report calls for immediate action to support older Australians to stay in their homes.

As the devastating impact of malnutrition continues to rise, the need for nutrition awareness, screening and access to appropriate food and dietetic services in the community has never been greater.

Working in community aged care, accredited practising dietitian Sharon Lawrence spoke to the Commission about the dire consequences malnutrition has on an older person's health.

"Unintended weight loss in older people increases the risk of infection, impairs wound healing, decreases muscle mass and affects the ability to complete activities of daily living, with greater impact as malnutrition continues,” Ms Lawrence said.

"There are approximately 1.14 million older Australians at risk of malnutrition in the community, and their health will only continue to decline, unless appropriate food and nutrition support is provided.”

Appearing before the Commission in July, Dietitians Association of Australia CEO Robert Hunt and Ms Lawrence highlighted the need for accountability and significant funding within aged care to ensure better clinical and quality of life outcomes for older Australians.

"Access to food and nutrition is a basic human right, which is essential for the physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing for older Australians. Prioritising nutrition is imperative to reverse the neglect of older people in Australia,” Ms Lawrence said.

Developing and implementing a National Nutrition Policy that encompasses the health of all older Australians living both in the community and in residential aged care is seen as vital.

This would ensure prioritisation of nutrition, through screening, assessment, care planning, adequate food and fluid delivery, support during mealtimes and staff education and training.

"We commend the Commission on the vital work they are continuing to do, in uncovering the multifaceted and systemic issues in aged care,” Ms Lawrence said.

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