Australians living in residential aged care can now complain about the quality of their food via a dedicated telephone hotline.
The Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is available to residents, their family members and aged care staff.
Callers have access to experts in food, nutrition and dining, including dietitians and speech pathologists.
Food and nutrition was one of the major issues highlighted by the aged care royal commission which suggested more than two thirds of aged care residents were malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and that some providers were spending only $6 per person per day on food. The royal commission also heard evidence of food in aged care lacking in fresh ingredients, over and/or under-cooked, and lacking variety.
I would like different meals, not the rotating roster of meals we get. The menu is very predictable. No variety. I do not like 90% of the options.- Survey respondent.
In 2021 the government introduced a Basic Daily Fee (BDF) supplement of $10 per resident per day specifically to improve the quality of food.
The Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline is part of the recently established ACQSC Food, Nutrition and Dining Unit.
I can't be clear enough, food must be a priority in aged care.- Aged Care minister Anika Wells.
The hotline is also available to aged care providers to access food and nutrition advice, support and education to deliver improved food, nutrition and dining experiences for older people in their care.
It follows the release of an ACQSC study report on food and nutrition thoughout the sector which showed that while there had been some improvement, more needed to be done.
A survey was conducted on behalf of ACQSC by leading advocacy organisation OPAN (Older Persons Advocacy Network).
"An unpleasant mealtime experience not only has negative nutritional consequences, but may also undermine a resident's dignity, self-esteem, and personhood," said the report.
I like fresh, I like flavour, I like choice, and I like fun with and around food.- Survery respondent.
While some survey respondents were happy with their meals others still complained of lack of choice, variety, freshness and accessibility and poor meal times.
Issues regarding insufficient staff, the design of dining rooms, poor presentation of food and a lack of food and drinks between meals which made it difficult for those older people who preferred to graze throughout the day, were also reported.
The hotline builds on a federal government's grant to the Maggie Beer Foundation to build the capability of aged care chefs and cooks working in aged care with the first free online training modules now available.
An unpleasant mealtime experience not only has negative nutritional consequences, but may also undermine a resident's dignity, self-esteem, and personhood.- ACQSC study on food and nutrition.
"What older Australians consume and their dining experience has a significant impact on their overall wellbeing," said Aged Care minister, Anika Wells.
"I can't be clear enough, food must be a priority in aged care."
OPAN chief executive Craig Gear said, "Food is consistently amongst the top 5 residential aged care issues raised with OPAN's advocates.
"Education and support from accredited dieticians will go a long way to improving the food, dining and nutrition experience in aged care."
Contact the hotline on 1800-844-044.
For information or support regarding aged care, call OPAN on 1800-700-600 or visit opan.org.au