Meals, Menus, and Much More! The Many Roles of Dietitians Working in Aged Care
Here at OSCAR Care Group, our team of incredible Dietitians are extremely passionate about improving food and nutrition for residents within aged care facilities. Our Dietitians take on a number of different roles to make sure each and every resident is provided with tasty food that meets their individual nutritional needs. August 7 is Aged Care Employee Day. This is a day to thank and celebrate the large and diverse team of amazing workers within the aged care industry. So, what does it meant to be an Aged Care Dietitian? Let’s take a look.
The role of an Aged Care Dietitian can be different every day
As aged care Dietitians, we take on a number of different tasks within residential aged care homes to ensure the people living there are receiving tasty and nutritious foods. We work one-on-one with the residents, and as a part of a health care team. Working alongside other allied health workers such as Physiotherapists, Speech Pathologists, and Occupational Therapists, as well as with the families of the residents, and with the staff within the facility. Together, everyone plays a vital role in ensuring residents are meeting their nutritional needs.
Creating, auditing, and fortifying menus
Our Dietitians help homes create a new menu, designed to have a wide variety of foods, account for many cultural food preferences, and meet the nutritional requirements for an aging population.
We are also able to review existing menus to ensure they provide enough variety and nutrients, and if they don’t, we can provide suggestions on ways to change the menu to increase nutrition. We focus on both variety and nutrition because it is so important the residents within the homes enjoy the foods they are given and continue to feel positively towards food and mealtimes.
Our Dietitians can also assist in ways to modify textures of meals for residents who require soft or pureed diets due to chewing or swallowing difficulties. Whether someone requires a short or long-term change to food texture, it is essential that food still tastes appealing and is nutritious.
Assessments, listening, connecting, and building relationships in 1-on-1 nutritional assessments and support
Our Dietitians work one-on-one with residents within the Aged Care home to assess their individual nutritional requirements and develop strategies to ensure they are able to achieve their health goals. This can be very different depending on the resident.
One reason we might see a resident is because they have unexpectedly lost weight, sometimes through sickness, a dislike for some of the offered foods, or for an unknown reason. Our Dietitians can work with this resident to prevent further weight loss through individualised changes to that resident’s meal plan. We spend time getting to know that person, understanding their likes, dislikes, and goals, to ensure we always provide an individualised approach to health care.
We can also assist in the management of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, diverticular disease, kidney disease, and many other conditions. We work closely with the resident, doctors, nurses, and any other relevant members of the care team to help in effectively managing the condition. We always work with a food first approach, looking to include foods the resident enjoys and make alternations to the existing menu to meet that resident’s needs. Our Dietitians can also prescribe supplements if a food first approach is not enough to meet that individual’s requirements.
Providing educations to staff, residents, and their families
Here at OSCAR Care Group, we also love to provide quality educations to assist in helping the residents to achieve their goals. We provide educations to residents whenever possible during our one-on-one sessions, we also try to speak to residents’ families to educate them on what changes we are looking to make and why. We work to ensure residents and their families have a say over the residents’ health and nutritional care. We view health care as something that needs to be done in collaboration with the individual not something the needs to be decided for anyone without their say.
We also provide education to the staff within Aged Care Homes, this could be through conversations and discussions around a resident’s care, or through formal education to staff, utilising group presentations to educate the staff at an Aged Care Home on a number of different aspects of nutritional care and how each and every staff member can play a role in improving the nutritional status of residents within the facility.
Why do our Dietitians love working in Aged Care?
Our team is so passionate about our role in not only providing nutritional care and disease management, but in improving the lives and experiences of all residents within Aged Care homes across Australia. Our team are dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of residents whilst providing them with foods that taste great and they enjoy eating.
Happy aged care employee day to all the wonderful workers out there!
I wake up every day grateful for my role as an Aged Care Dietitian. I am so lucky to be an Accredited Practising Dietitian and working every day in Aged Care. There are so many reasons why I love being a Dietitian in Aged Care, including speaking to residents, hearing about their journey in life and seeing their connection to food and favourite meals, drinks and snacks. I love being able to improve residents’ nutrition while at the same time seeing the way our eyes light up to the food we enjoy - this really warms the heart. To top this off, spending time and genuinely caring for residents makes me the happiest human, as I know in my heart each resident can feel I care and by making some residents happy and putting a smile on their faces, makes me in return feel so happy and really lifts my day - Kiarra Martindale, Lead Dietitian
I love being a Dietitian in Aged Care, because although food plays an important role all throughout the lifespan, food can serve as such a special part of someone's life as they approach the later stages of their time. Food brings people together, serves as opportunities to socialise, becomes a vehicle that takes one back to fond memories throughout life and the people involved in this memory, as well as serving as a source of joy and comfort during difficult times when loved ones may not be near. It is also very special to have the opportunity to learn about different foods and food-oriented traditions, from residents who lived the majority of their lives in a different country or culture. Seeing the smiles on residents' faces when they share these fond memories never fails to make my day. - Hannah Sallay, Dietitian
The elderly population are one of the most vulnerable people. In an aged care setting specially, due to complex medical conditions, they are in need of more care and support to maintain a good quality of life. My passion for caring and helping people started at an early age. When I was a teenager, my grandmother unfortunately was unwell and she took care of me always. During her illness, I always used to be concerned about her nutrition and recovery. Though at that stage, I had little to no knowledge of nutrition. But my instinct kept telling me that good nutrition is vital to stay well and healthy. When I see residents in the facility, I feel humbled to have the opportunity to provide nutrition recommendations that will make a positive impact in their journey. I also think of their family and loved ones who would feel happy to see them enjoying a good quality of life. This motivates me to provide the best service I can when I visit residents. - Ashma Burathoki, Dietitian
Being an Aged Care Dietitian gives me the privilege to work with residents to improve their nutritional status while journeying with them through their later years of life. I am also able to take a pivotal role towards assisting them to better meet their nutritional needs by equipping them with the necessary knowledge whilst working with the facility’s kitchen. It also enables me to be their voice towards advocating for a change or an improvement to the foods in the facility. It certainly brings me great joy and satisfaction when I see a gradual improvement in their health through the dietary interventions and plans that I have recommended for them. - Verlencia Chu, Dietitian
I love being a Dietitian in aged care since because food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and at the end of life it is even more important. I enjoy supporting residents maintain their enjoyment and pleasure from food. - Nicole Donnelly, Dietitian
I am passionate about working in Aged Care. On the professional level, I believe that, as a Dietitian, I can make a difference in the lives of vulnerable older adults, ensuring that nutrition and quality of life are optimized and reducing the risk of frailty. On the personal level, I enjoy the genuine conversations I have with the residents and their heart-warming smiles. - Hilda Albeayni, Dietitian
I love being a Dietitian in aged care because I love helping anyone make healthier food choices that improve their quality of life but I love working with aged care clients because of the life experience they have and they are always so appreciative of the work that we do with them. I like being able to spend time with aged care residents and hear their stories. - Kaylie Cochrane, Dietitian
Being a Dietitian in Aged Care is more than just a job for me, I love having the opportunity to support older adults in improving their nutrition and wellbeing through food. It’s incredibly rewarding when you hear a ‘thank you’ from a resident, almost 100 years old who feels better and stronger because of your guidance. It’s always a good challenge navigating through multiple diseases and coming up with creative solutions to dietary restrictions, making the most of pureed foods, finding ways to increase the energy and protein of recipes and working out the best approach to meet each individuals’ needs. Let’s not forget the endless supply of adorable and hilarious stories that come from working with older adults from tales of their favourite childhood dishes to reminiscing about past culinary adventures. All in all, being a Dietitian in aged care is a fulfilling and rewarding journey. - Sarah Chater, Dietitian
I love being an aged care Dietitian because I love using evidence to optimise resident’s quality of life and health and reduce the risk of malnutrition. I am very grateful for my role as an aged care Dietitian as it is very rewarding, as you can really see the positive difference in the resident’s quality of life. - Justine Botros, Dietitian
Why you love being an Aged Care Dietitian? I found working with older people really rewarding. Our role is to promote function and comfort and there's great scope for this through food. I love to help them to stay happier for longer. - Moe Tsubokura, Dietitian