Managing nutrition in Aged Care during an Covid outbreak
As Covid remains rampant in our community, the aged care population remains at risk. Covid continues to affect many aspects of our overall health status. Our aging population, however, remain most at risk of poorer outcomes. Providing a multidisciplinary approach to care can improve the outcomes of our residents.
Nutrition during Covid
When the body is fighting infection, it is working harder than usual. Because of this, the body requires extra nutrients to be able to support this increased workload. As the body uses more energy than normal, it requires extra food to fuel this. However, as with any sickness, feeling unwell means we may not eat, drink, sleep or rest as well as usual. With a reduced appetite comes reduced food and fluid intake, meaning that these increased nutrient needs may not be supported.
When our nutritional needs are not met, we are more likely to experience reduced health outcomes, slower recovery times, worsening symptoms and weight loss. For our Aged Care residents, this can lead to a serious decline in health.
How can a Dietitian Help?
A referral to a Dietitian during Covid infection can help our residents maximise their nutritional intake during, and beyond, their illness. The Dietitian provides useful strategies to maximise oral intake, and provides suitable recommendations based on the resident’s needs, preferences and individual circumstances. Studies show that nutrition support during periods of ill health greatly improve health outcomes.
Dietetic care extends beyond the initial, critical period of Covid. Dietitians continue to follow up with residents to ensure their overall nutritional status has not been impacted for the long term.
Referring a resident with Covid
Due to the high risk of malnutrition in aged care, and the significant impact of Covid in the aged care population, it is recommended that all residents with a recent Covid diagnosis are reviewed by a Dietitian. Early dietetic intervention during Covid aims to reduce the negative impact of Covid on overall health status, as well as unintentional loss of weight.
If you are concerned about a resident’s nutritional status who currently has Covid, a referral to the Dietitian is highly encouraged. Due to strict infection control procedures, a Telehealth appointment may be most suitable for these residents. The Dietitian will inform you of the best course of action depending on whether there are other active cases within the home, and if it would be safe to conduct an on-site visit.
Some residents may display a loss of weight or appetite for a period of time after their Covid infection. Ongoing dietetic support for these residents is crucial for good health.
Send your referrals to email@example.com
Tips to promote nutrition while waiting for a Dietetic review
Once you have referred a resident to the Dietitian, there are several strategies that can be put in place in the meantime to promote oral intake.
For residents with a low appetite, try providing small, frequent meals in place of larger meals. Where possible, provide foods that are high in energy and protein, such as meats, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt and nourishing desserts.
For residents experiencing fatigue and lethargy, have additional supervision with meals. If poor oral intake is noted, provide extra assistance.
For residents experiencing nausea, try providing cooler foods and avoiding strong smells. Also recommend providing an anti-nausea medication 30 minute before mealtimes.
If a resident is unable to stomach solid foods, provide high-energy, high-protein fluids to promote nutrient intake. For example, Milkshakes, milo and soups.
Encourage hydration to assist in fighting the infection.
How to best prepare for the dietetic review
Once you have referred a resident to the Dietitian, it is time to prepare for their dietetic assessment. This assists the Dietitian in developing a complete snapshot of the resident’s current condition. Some steps to take prior to their dietetic consultation includes:
Commencing a strict Food and Fluid Chart for a minimum of 3 days. This provides an idea of what type of foods the resident has been tolerating, and in what amount. Remember: the more detail that is included, the better!
Continuing to monitor the resident’s weight. It is ideal for a weight to be taken right before the Dietitian visits. This provides a clearer picture of the resident’s recent nutritional intake, and may assist in identifying any trends in weight change.
Evidently, dietetic input for residents with Covid provides better health outcomes. Dietetic input assists in improving symptoms, reducing recovery times and preventing unintentional loss of weight. All residents with Covid can benefit from nutrition input.
If you have any questions, or would like personalised information, please contact OSCAR Care Group for further support from one of our amazing Accredited Practising Dietitians.
We’re here for you during the Christmas holidays!
With Christmas around the corner and the latest COVID wave hitting Aged Care homes around Australia, our Dietitians are here to support you. Our office may be closed between Christmas and New Years, but our Dietitians are working through give our residents the best of care. One of our Accredited Practising Dietitians can come on site or complete a referral via telehealth.
As early dietetic intervention is important with COVID, please send your referrals to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch as soon as possible to arrange a time.
We’re here for you. Because our residents deserve the best.