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Have you had a spot check from the Food, Nutrition and Dining Support Unit?

There have been some new changes regarding Nutrition, Food and Dining experiences in Aged Care Homes after the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission protects and enhances the safety, health, well-being, and quality of life for people receiving aged care services. One of the new changes, is the introduction of the Food, Nutrition and Dining Support Unit who are completing random spot checks. Let’s take a look at what these are and how you can prepare for these random checks.

Have you had a spot check from the Food, Nutrition and Dining Support Unit?

The Food, Nutrition and Dining Support Unit

Australians now have a simple and effective way to access food and nutrition advice, support, and education in aged care, with the launch of a dedicated Food, Nutrition and Dining Unit at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.


The Food, Nutrition and Dining unit aims to ensure that older people in aged care receive nutritious food and positive dining experiences to prevent malnutrition and help maintain a high quality of life. This will also support older people having choice around meal types and timing, nutritious and appetising meals (including those on texture modified diets) and allow older people to consume the food and drink they enjoy, while meeting their dietary requirements.


The introduction of this unit brings a wide range of expertise in the areas of:

  • Consumers and Advocacy

  • Cultural Diversity

  • Nutrition

  • Food Preparation and service

  • Dementia Care

  • Speech Pathology

  • Oral Health and Wound care

The Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline

Along with the support unit, there is a new dedicated food and nutrition hotline, where residents and their families can escalate their nutritional concerns, enquiries, and complaints.

Aged Care homes can also use the hotline and gain access to experts in the areas of food, nutrition and dining including Accredited Practising Dietitians and Speech Pathologists to receive education and assistance to improve food, nutrition, and dining experiences for older people in their care.


Food, nutrition and dining Hotline for Aged Care


Spot checks in Aged Care

The Food, Nutrition and Dining Support Unit will coordinate up to 720 provider spot checks annually, with 10% of spot checks of the highest risk services to have accompanying Dietitians. These spot checks began in July 2023 and there’s a chance you have already had a visit. With the overall purpose to ensure residents are receiving nutritious food to fight malnutrition rates, these spot checks are raising some questions in the industry.


What is being flagged by these spot checks?

We need to ensure that the needs and preferences of our residents are understood and achieved, whilst complying with the Strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards. Let’s take a look at the standards to know what could be flagged by The Food, Nutrition and Dining Support Unit during a spot check.


Menus

Many residents rely entirely on their home’s food supply to meet all their nutritional needs, so careful planning of a menu is essential to enhance the nutritional value of the food supply and above all, to encourage residents to eat. It is important that the menu is also culturally appropriate to the residents in each home, meets residents’ preferences, offers variety and suitable options for those on texture modified diets. The menu needs to be a dietetically assessed seasonal menu that is being adhered to by the kitchen (Quality Standards 1, 3, 5, 6).

Read more: Aged Care Menus


Recipes

Nutritious foods are foods that have an appropriate nutrient density and contain substances a person needs and can use to stay healthy (Quality Standard 6). Dietetically assessed recipes ensure that residents are receiving the required nutrients when they are aligned with the dietetically assessed menus (approved recipes do not replace a Dietetic menu review).


Mealtime experience for Residents

The dining experience includes environment, service, ambience, aromas, company, time provided to eat, serving size, temperature, presentation of food and drinks etc. The experience of sharing food and drink with other older people, friends, family and carers is important for many older people who should be supported to eat and drink. The dining experience needs to meet the needs and preferences of older people to support social engagement, function and quality of life (Quality Standards 1, 4,6, 7).


Menu & Mealtime Quality Assessments

By the 1st of July 2024, every Aged Care Home will need to have had at least one Aged Care Menu & Mealtime Quality Assessment per site (Quality Standard 6). Read more: Menu and Mealtime Quality Assessments


Timely referrals to APDs and SPs

Residents need timely referrals to Dietitians and Speech Pathologists to support early identification and intervention, reablement, maintenance of function and quality of life (Quality Standards 4,6). Send referrals: Dietetic, Speech Pathology


Education sessions for staff

Covering meal presentation, food description to support and enhance the mealtime experience (Quality Standards 1, 3, 5, 6) Read more: Education Sessions


Food Safety Audits

Should be current and maintained (Quality Standards 4, 6). Read more: Food Safety Audits


Malnutrition screenings

Conducting a malnutrition screening on admission and then on a monthly basis in line with weight monitoring checks (Quality Standards 3, 5).


Meal, menu and mealtime satisfaction surveys

Conducting meal, menu and mealtime satisfaction surveys. Encourage carers and families to be involved too. This should survey an older person’s specific dining needs, consider any dietary needs, including allergies, intolerances, relevant health risks and conditions along with religious or cultural preferences (Quality Standards 2, 6).


Menu and Mealtime Quality Assessments in Aged Care

No need to panic

If your home is abiding by the Strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards, then a random spot check will only confirm this. Partnering with trusted industry experts will assist you to continue to remain compliant and provide the best possible care. Our experienced and qualified Aged Care Dietitians will enhance your residents’ wellbeing and overall quality of life. We have experienced and qualified Aged Care Dietitians around Australia to support your home in-person and virtually. Our OSCAR Care Group Dietitians can assist with 1-on-1 nutrition consultations with residents, nutrition training and education for staff, supplement reviews, malnutrition screening, weight reviews, food first approach support, Menu and Mealtime Quality Assessments, recipe development and menu reviews. Our expertise will enhance your residents’ wellbeing and overall quality of life. 


Our Dietitian tips for the best nutrition support for residents

  • Monitor weight regularly for all residents

  • Know when to refer to a Dietitian and Speech Pathologist (as required)

  • Monitor malnutrition and associated risks regularly through malnutrition screening

  • Create Diverse and Enjoyable Menus: Keep things interesting! Provide variety of tasty and visually appealing meals and complete Menu and Mealtime Assessments annually by an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

  • Seek resident feedback regularly through food focus groups, surveys with a focus on food and meetings.


Quick checklist to be prepared

  • Onsite Menu & Mealtime Quality Assessment by an Accredited Practising Dietitian, at least annually.

  • Ensure all 4 seasonal menus are reviewed by an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

  • Ensure your recipes have been dietetically assessed.

  • Refer to Dietitians and Speech Pathologist promptly and ensure you follow their recommendations.

  • Focus on a Food First Approach with High Quality, Variety and Taste and consider food fortification if you are not already.

  • Conduct regular food forums or food focus groups and food surveys for feedback from residents on nutrition, food and dining and implement this when updating menus and recipes.

  • Organise regular nutrition education for staff, residents and families.


We’re here to support you – reach out to our team today.

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