Offering food flexibility

Source: Shutterstock.

Photo: Source: Shutterstock.

A “nourishing” and “flexible” menu may reduce malnutrition in aged care, an aged care nutrition seminar in Melbourne has found.

DPS News attended Leading Nutrition’s Food for the Ages seminar last week, along with nation-wide aged care chefs and nurses seeking to improve and manage nutrition and quality of life in their elderly residents or patients.

One of Leading Nutrition’s senior dietitians, Denise Burbidge, addressed delegates as she described the prevalence of malnutrition in aged care.

“Malnutrition in aged care in somewhere between 40% to 70% and those who are hospitalised usually have higher malnutrition rates due to acute illnesses.”

According to Ms Burbidge, both aged care and those in a hospital setting need to tailor menus to suit those who have been diagnosed as malnourished.

“Menus need to be as flexible as possible. So, if we always provide a menu that somebody doesn’t like, then they will likely not eat it and they will ultimately lose weight. We need high energy and high protein diets,” she urges.

Devising a weight management plan is important, and speaking directly to residents and their families is central to understanding, and hopefully preventing, malnutrition in aged care, according to Ms Burbidge.

“We have a ‘food first’ intervention. For somebody that is not eating well, how do we actually increase their nutrition intake without necessarily having to use the commercial substances straight away?” she asks. The answer reportedly lies with the resident.

“We go back to resident and ask for their food preferences. Try asking your residents, ‘you’ve been having lots of salads, would you like to try something new on our winter menu?’

“Those initial questions are really important and often overlooked. Care staff often use these really high interventions when really, we could have just asked the resident in the early stages what they want.”

Feeding residents in a dignified way and taking the time to sit and have conversations with them during meal times is also important, Ms Burbidge claims.

We’ve listed some other tips to identifying and preventing malnutrition in facilities, according to Leading Nutrition:

  • Monthly weigh-ins
  • Implement a weight loss policy and action plan
  • Screening tools
  • Create a nourishing menu suited to the resident’s preference
  • Allow choice and flexibility in menus
  • Cater to all diet types (ie puree diets for those with swallowing or chewing difficulties)
  • As a last resort, look at supplement options for those who cannot maintain weight with a standard diet

Do you want to learn more about texture modified foods or seeking to improve the menu at the aged care facility where you work? Stay tuned for more DPS News this week on Leading Nutrition’s Food for the Ages seminar.