'National disgrace’: Pensioners fed on just $6 a day
AUSTRALIAN pensioners are fed on just $6 a day, according to shocking new statistics which the AMA president has called a "national disgrace".
The "wholly inadequate'' sum of money is less than Australian prisoners get for their meals and medical chief Michael Gannon says more money is spent on his guinea pigs' food.
"My children's guinea pigs get fresh ingredients and more money spent on them,'' AMA President, Mr Gannon told the Courier-Mail. "It's a national disgrace the way we treat our aged."
The study, written by Bond University dietitian Cherie Hugo and accountants Stewart Brown, shows that, despite aged care homes reaping in $1 billion in profits last year, they spent $6.08 per resident, on average, to provide three meals a day.
It also shows that prisons spend an average of $8.25 per prisoner per day on food.
The research study, which was based on the financial reports from 817 aged care providers for 64,256 residents, states that half of these residents suffer from malnutrition.
It found that nursing homes cut spending on food by 30 cents per resident last year.
The report's authors wrote the decrease means that spending of food appears to be "significantly lower than food budgets in the Australian community, correctional services and internationally".
"Increasing the aged care profit margin by reducing food spend impacts the quality of resident care and can contribute to malnutrition rates in aged care,'' it states.
"Malnutrition is associated with a cascade of adverse outcomes, including increased risk of falls, pressure injuries and hospital admissions, leading to poorer resident quality of life and increased healthcare costs."
It also shows that budgets for food in aged care facilities have increased over the same period in other countries such as England, the US and Canada.
The report also indicates that a reliance on supplements over fresh food is having an adverse effect on the health of those in aged care homes.
"The increase in supplements and food replacements in the present paper likely indicates that aged care providers perhaps choose supplements over fresh food and ingredients in response to unintentional resident weight loss," it reads.
"Given the ongoing high rates of malnutrition in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities and potentially improved awareness of the issue despite an increased supplement spend, we are clearly not solving the expensive problem of malnutrition with current approaches."
Australian Bureau of Statistics findings show that, in the general community, adults younger than 35 years spend approximately $18.29 per person on food and drinks daily.
Young couples (average age 28 years) were splashing the most cash on food, spending $23.60 per person per day.
Older couples were found to be tighter, spending $17.25 per person on food and drinks daily.
The statistics come as a new PwC study, commissioned and supported by Australian Unity, shows there is a looming health and aged-care resourcing crisis waiting for us in just seven years time if there is no dramatic funding shake-up.
It found that by 2025 an additional $24 billion in capital costs and an additional $13b in annual operating costs will be needed to meet projected gaps in residential aged care, in-home and community care and hospital beds.
It is estimated that we will need 180,000 more carers to cater for our ageing population and 85,000 more nurses across the health and aged-care sectors in the next seven years.
James van Smeerdijk, a partner at PwC, wrote an editorial for the The Australian on the findings and said it was time for the federal government to take action.
"Even if we could afford it, it is unlikely that the existing health and ageing sectors could simply be scaled up to meet increasing demand in time - and more incremental policy nips and tucks simply aren't going to cut it," he wrote.
"Without fundamental change, and soon, the health and ageing systems will become unaffordable and unfit for purpose."