Aged care workers, carers and nurses are faced with challenges every day to ensure residents are receiving adequate attention, particularly when it comes to nutrition and providing food that residents enjoy eating. Other challenges include limited resources, time and money to effectively deal with overcoming cases of malnutrition in a facility, and often the nutritional care responsibility falls on the facility itself.
The cause of malnutrition within aged care is "multifaceted". Essentially it is the lack of proper nutrition caused by not eating enough or enough of the right foods. However, there are many factors associated with ageing that contribute to this, such as a reduction in skeletal muscle mass and body weight, as well as other possible limitations, including difficulty swallowing, reduced appetite, inadequate nutritional intake, depression and dementia.
At Winc, we understand the pressure on aged care workers and carers to ensure adequate nutritional care is being provided, so we have sat down with Dietitian Ryan Jackson from Flavour Creations to compile a list of tips to help improve this.
First and foremost, you need to increase and promote awareness around malnutrition within the facility so carers know what signs to look out for. The facility should also support aged care workers by providing enough information regarding what malnutrition is and how best to deal with it if they believe a resident is at risk or potentially suffering from malnutrition.
By conducting regular patient screenings, weigh-in’s and paying attention to residents at meal times, aged care professionals can keep a close eye on any changes in appearance or behaviour.
If there are changes in weight, food intake or residents are presenting signs of malnutrition, it is advised that aged care workers refer the patient to a Dietitian who can assess their situation and provide adequate treatment and care immediately.
Take into consideration increasing the variety of meal options to suit all taste preferences and dietary needs. Lack of variety at meal times can discourage residents from eating, which may lead to malnutrition. It is important to provide nutritionally satisfying meals that are high in energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and adequate fiber when considering the diets of those in aged care.
If appetite is low and/or the resident requires a texture modified diet, then making every mouthful count is imperative. Food fortification that increases the energy and protein value of popular menu items is a great way of making sure those extra calories and nutrients are consumed.
Make meal time more enjoyable by serving all meals in a social setting. This will help increase social interactions and will nurture not only their physical health, but their mental health as well. Meal time is important for residents and provides a chance to connect with others by sitting, chatting and listening whilst enjoying their meal.
It is essential that as an industry we understand the ways to help prevent and improve nutritional care. The risks associated with lack of nutritional care are extremely detrimental to a patient’s overall health and wellbeing.