10th Feb 2018
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$6 a day meal deal for some aged care residents
Author: Janelle Ward
My guinea pigs eat better: AMA

Prisoners and guinea pigs get more fresh food than many older people, according to critics responding to a study that found kitchen budgets at many aged care facilities around Australia had dropped to $6.08 per person per day.

Australian Medical Association President Michael Gannon says the study’s findings are “a national disgrace”.

“My children’s guinea pigs get fresh ingredients and more money spent on them,’’ he told News Limited. “It’s a national disgrace the way we treat our aged.”

In an industry that is still very much under the microscope following Fairfax Media revelations last year of  “systemic and structural deficiencies” in nursing homes, the Bond University study What does it cost to feed aged care residents in Australia? has heaped more pressure on the sector.

The study collected data from 817 residential aged care facilities (RACF) with the results representing 64,256 residents or 33% of the national total.

It found that spending on fresh food was being cut while budgets for nutritional supplements and food replacements had increased by 128%.

Expenditure on inmates at correctional facilities around Australia, meanwhile, was $8.25 per person per day, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), while older Australians spent on average $17.25 per person per day and younger adults $18.29 – more than three times the allocation at some aged care facilities.

The study noted that aged care food budgets had decreased despite inflation and were well below spending at aged care facilities overseas.

The findings were a concern, according to Cherie Hugo, lead investigator, aged care dietitian and Bond University PhD candidate.

“We cannot cut the food budget any more because it is a false economy,” she said.

“You end up spending more on supplements, which don’t improve quality of life for your residents. And the cost of that small cut ends up being very expensive in terms of the flow-on effects such as wounds, falls and hospital readmission,” she told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Ms Hugo said she was concerned that supplements were being added in preference to addressing the underlying cause of someone’s malnutrition or weight loss.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) CEO Sean Rooney said it was misleading to compare the food spend in an aged care facility with that of a prison.

“Around two-thirds of aged care residents are women over the age of 80, who typically have a much lower calorie requirement than the predominantly younger male, adult prison population,” he said.

He said all residential aged care facilities in Australia were accredited by the Federal Government and nutrition was a key consideration in the accreditation process.

“During both unannounced visits and in re-accreditation visits, residential care facilities are assessed against these standards,” he said.

“Outcome 2.10 in the standards asks whether care recipients receive adequate nourishment and hydration, and providers are required to demonstrate that catering services are provided in a way that ensures the meal preferences, nutritional needs and special requirements of residents are met.

“Non-compliances against the standards are noted and sanctions can be applied in response to non-compliances.”  

Are meals in an aged care facility an issue for you?

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    COMMENTS

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    Travellersjoy
    13th Feb 2018
    10:14am
    Sounds like it's ok to starve old women of nutrients to enrich the owners and operators.

    Seems to me we need a 'visitors program' like those in prisons and mental health settings, to ensure there is an independent eye on aged care scamming the elderly for profit.

    Weakened people are passive while they wait to die. heaven forbid we should keep the aged in good health until they go!
    Tib
    13th Feb 2018
    11:12am
    You ok with starving old men?
    TREBOR
    13th Feb 2018
    11:23am
    There are 'visitor's programs' - thing is they are very loose and essentially are toothless tigers unless there is blatant abuse, such as whipping the old people to the gas chambers.

    I knew a lady (from Nova Scotia) who was well-qualified etc and didn't even get a look in..... it seems only certain types are acceptable for the role .... and they need to be a fully indoctrinated and strait-jacketed mentally Australian with an innate fear of 'authority'.
    Brissiegirl
    13th Feb 2018
    11:47am
    Tib, as is the standard these days men don't exist, they don't matter, they are second rate citizens, demonised and discarded and on top of that young males are cleverly stripped of their assets in the process of being thrown out of their hard-earned homes. The only thing society has given men is a few Men's Sheds. Lately it's been pleasing to hear Bettina Arndt speaking about this issue. Who would want to be a man these days and even worse, an old man in a nursing home?
    Tib
    13th Feb 2018
    2:28pm
    Brissiegirl it so long since I've heard a woman have any consideration for men I've gone into shock. Usually all you get from women is one hate filled comment after another. To answer your comment no I would definitely not want to be in a nursing home and these places should be investigated to make sure all those living there are well looked after. And by the way I like Bettina Arndt as well she understands what's going on.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    17th Feb 2018
    11:19am
    Since when was this a male/female competition? It's unacceptable for ANYONE to be deprived of proper nutrition, but if it's a choice between feeding the elderly infirm better and criminals in jails, I think the former deserve more consideration - and gender doesn't come into it.
    Ted Wards
    13th Feb 2018
    11:08am
    It will be interesting to see what the results are after the unannounced visits occur. Will we see the real picture emerging. However, we do need to understand that inactive older people do not have the caloric needs of youmger more active people. In our centre our clients age around their late 80s into their early 90s and sill live at home. Those who choose to bring their won lunch will often bring in a cracker with cheese and some fruit or a biscuit, or half an avocado and very little really. Those we buy lunch for its usually sandwiches and they dont eat more than half to a third. The real issue is lazy cooks. You can still find nutritional meals that dont cost a bundle and meet the needs.
    AutumnOz
    13th Feb 2018
    11:11am
    If aged care places still cooked the meals it would be possible to feed the people good and healthy food for $6.08 per person per day.
    That $6.08 per person per day has to cover the cost of importing the prepared meals, delivery costs plus the wages of the people distributing the food within the facility.
    It doesn't leave much money left over for any quality ingredients or even for a piece of fruit per day for the residents.
    Troubadour
    13th Feb 2018
    11:27am
    Yes that is a valid point - cooking the meals on site.
    It is possible to have nutritious food on a budget, and many of us do. Also most people over 80 find that they do not have the appetites they once had, we have an elderly friend who we go out for lunch with at least once a month, and can only manage small meals now.
    Having said all that I do feel there is a need to have these un-announced visits to check things out.
    Graeme
    13th Feb 2018
    11:37am
    Golden Circle factory outlet was selling frozen Simplot meals at 3 for $5, after a little research I discovered that these are actually meals on wheels dinners.
    ray from Bondi
    13th Feb 2018
    11:47am
    sadly when my mother deteriorated I had to place her in a home, at the start it was very good, run by the Catholic church but over time services and staff were run down, at the start there was a cook and he used to ensure people received what they liked (my mother was fussy) then they started with meals brought in from who knows where, they looked okay but did not cater to people like my mum who would not eat meat or eggs. My mother passed some time ago now and I sure things have only worsened. Governments know but do not care as these people are unable to voice their opinions and only a few stories reach the commercial media which only seemed concerned about some TV personality have a divorce, social problems and there are many and they are bad for want of a better word. sadly the ABC is now only a weather station and I am sure years ago they would have presented the facts who is not doing their job.
    Charlie
    13th Feb 2018
    11:12am
    Everybody is having a say in this except the residents themselves. Surely some of them can handle an interview. Are they all so drugged out they cant speak.?

    The feeding of prisoners is a completely different matter, most would be strong, healthy and doing physical exercise to keep them busy. It's an investment in their rehabilitation and a service to the public to keep them off the streets.

    For the aged its keeping them as comfortable and happy as possible in the last years of their lives, this may not amount to great big meals but a choice as to what they feel like.
    ray from Bondi
    13th Feb 2018
    11:50am
    that is the problem, if you go to one you will see that the majority are unwell, either mentally or physically that is why they are there in the first place healthy older people are still in their homes and as the old saying goes there is nowhere like home. Could I be so bold as to suggest those that could complain are worried about the consequences?
    Glenda
    14th Feb 2018
    7:38pm
    Charlie, thanks for what you have said, all very correct. Nursing homes are ruthless, they are run by greedy people who simply want beds and rooms to be made available for quick turnaround therefore ongoing quick profit!! That's what matters to them, definitely not the welfare of our loved ones. My mother is in a nursing home which on the surface would appear to be wonderful. BUT there are many failings and terrible inedible "food" is a huge issue. Most residents just don't eat. My mother would be able to speak up but is too scared to do so. I too feel the same on her behalf; though I have raised this matter at meetings but NOBODY LISTENS ..... yes, I am really frustrated, saddened and angry that they treat our loved ones so cruelly by dishing out obnoxious food to them.
    VeryCaringBigBear
    13th Feb 2018
    11:14am
    I visit people my age in nursing homes and although the food looks adequate in volume it is not very appealling to the eye. They get nutritritialist the work out calorie intakes and prepare just enough food for that calorie intake. So if a resident doesn't like something and doesn't eat they are being starved.
    CoogeeGuy
    13th Feb 2018
    11:20am
    Isn't it very sad we treat the elderly so poor. $6 a day for probably the only thing they look forward to on any given day. Or do they? Unfortunately, I have seen the food they serve at Aged Care Centres, and I was horrified. I am a real foodie. How am I going to cope with being served bland, uninteresting food as they do? I thought to myself, the only thing I could eat was the dessert. Its time we started treating the elderly with a lot more respect. They worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes, and help make this country what it is today. They deserve better. A lot better.
    TREBOR
    13th Feb 2018
    11:28am
    In perspective - $42 a week.....out of how much? Surely they can do better than that...
    ray from Bondi
    13th Feb 2018
    11:50am
    here here
    TREBOR
    13th Feb 2018
    11:20am
    No! Next question....
    Poppa Bear
    13th Feb 2018
    11:24am
    Travellersjoy, it isn't only old women, there are a lot of old men who suffer the same fate as women. Just take a look for yourself and the truth will become apparent to you.
    Knows-a-lot
    13th Feb 2018
    3:35pm
    Most of the men have died off by then, driven into an early grave - having worked their butts off keeping the women safe in the lap of luxury.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    17th Feb 2018
    11:23am
    Or totting their livers and kidneys with grog. Not too many men work their butt off to keep women in luxury, Knows-a-lot, but a lot of women work their guts out to compensate the kids for an irresponsible husband - and plenty more work very hard in partnership with their man to give their kids a good start in life.

    This is NOT a gender issue. It's about elderly PEOPLE.
    Graeme
    13th Feb 2018
    11:34am
    There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Without the full data and the methodology this is nothing more than another headline grabbing storey, An example of just how concocked the storey is, " dropped to $6.08 per person per day" does the author expect us to believe that every age care facility spends exactly $6.08 per person.
    It is not stated whether this is the medium, median, average or lowest. This is just one example of how statistics can be manipulated to to show whatever you want,
    I write this not in defence of the aged care operators, but as an attack on the poor quality journalism that is rampant today.
    The pom
    13th Feb 2018
    2:47pm
    I reckon statistics show that 69.375% of statistics are false.
    ranga
    13th Feb 2018
    11:34am
    Saw big brother in public hospital - lunch looked like vomit on a plate.
    Disgusting.
    Pat
    13th Feb 2018
    5:21pm
    Your brother sounds like he was given a modified diet for whatever reason. Usually because of swallowing difficulties and the risk of aspiration of said food into the lungs.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    18th Feb 2018
    7:32am
    Or maybe the meal was disgusting, Pat. Quality varies. I've experienced hospitals where the food wasn't edible, and others where it was very good indeed. I compared four aged care homes and found two served very good meals, and two served dreadful food - meals I wouldn't give to a stray dog!

    Don't be too confident that your assessments are universally valid. You haven't been everywhere and seen everything! I assure you, the standards are NOT enforced nearly as well as you seem to think.
    ray from Bondi
    13th Feb 2018
    11:38am
    I believe this has come about because ALL governments have let it. in the name of good business, and efficient government, who checks and how often and how serious are they about checking, I have read that places are told long before anybody checks and the date of the check, what a joke.
    TREBOR
    13th Feb 2018
    7:19pm
    That's what I meant by the toothless tiger comment. Pre-warned... all shipshape and the Potemkin Village fully organised...
    Brissiegirl
    13th Feb 2018
    11:43am
    While we're focusing on nursing home food, there's a step before that and it's meals on wheels. Both my grandmother and father tried it to find that it was no better than dished up slop. There should be an inquiry into the quality of meals on wheels food. I know it's "contracted" with marvelous volunteer delivery drivers but oh the quality is just dreadful.
    Rukus
    13th Feb 2018
    1:11pm
    I worked in nutrition in a public hospital. So many oldies who came in were malnourished. I regularly heard comments that they had never been hungry in their lives until they went into the nursing home. I have relatives in a nursing home who used to be able to choose from a menu, but rules changed and now they have to eat whatever is being served like it or not. Nursing homes have been cutting back on food costs for years. It is time something was done about it. But like everything else, it will probably all be forgotten about before anything is done to improve things.
    Rosret
    13th Feb 2018
    2:56pm
    Are you reporting it to your local member of parliament?
    Eddy
    13th Feb 2018
    1:38pm
    Not all nursing homes are stingy with meals. My 94yo mother-in-law is currently in transitional care in an 88-bed nursing home to recuperate after a spell in hospital, her expected stay is 6 weeks before she comes home. Her meals are quite adequate, no less than what she would eat at home, and appear to be quite nutritious, at least 3 veg and meat plus soup and dessert. They are all prepared on the premises and the cook does come around every few days to check the meals are enjoyable. They also cater for cultural requirements, vegetarian and allergy requirements (my MiL's roommate is a vegetarian). I am sure that they spend much more than $6 per day on catering when you consider the morning and afternoon teas as well. She has to pay $49 per day on top of the government subsidy.
    TREBOR
    13th Feb 2018
    7:20pm
    Sounds like a showpiece to present to the Royal Commission when it begins Eddy - here's a good example.
    The pom
    13th Feb 2018
    2:45pm
    My wife is resident in a aged care facility and I visit her most days and stop over while she has her lunch. It is not at the high end of Haute Cuisine but seems a reasonable meal most days, and would certainly cost a lot over $6 if bought at a café. There is also fresh fruit put out before lunch for the residents to help themselves. It may be that some of the places where the residents have not put up many hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a place are not so good.
    disillusioned
    13th Feb 2018
    2:49pm
    Very hard to install a comparable "visitors' program" in this area, as many elderly residents are a lot less vocal than those in prisons and mental health facilities, and are frightened of losing their accommodation if they complain too much. And as nursing homes and accommodation facilities for the elderly are run on a "for profit" basis, meals and staffing are probably the easiest areas to save money on, which means that the quality of life of the residents will be impacted adversely.
    Rosret
    13th Feb 2018
    2:50pm
    When my mother was in a private hospital in Melbourne she was very poorly and could only summon herself to eat a soft high calorie dessert. However even though I put it on her menu come meal time it was missing from the tray night after night. Eventually I went for a walk to chat to the nurses and lo and behold there were 4 desserts sitting on the bench - waiting for the nurses tea break time!
    So if the nurses in a private hospital are pilfering the oldies food what guarantee are the aged care in nursing homes of getting a proper dinner even at $6 a head.
    At $6 a head they are eating vitamin deficient garbage. My goodness someone needs to be accountable.
    Rosret
    13th Feb 2018
    2:53pm
    I can see a solution here. If we band together and rob a bank we either get away with it and live happily ever after or we get sent to prison and get fed!
    Knows-a-lot
    13th Feb 2018
    3:19pm
    Ye Gods! $6 per day? What are the poor residents eating? Cat food?

    Nursing homes are clearly rapacious for-profit institutions into ripping-off their residents.
    Old Man
    13th Feb 2018
    4:13pm
    We're a bit scarce on actual numbers here or I have misread the article. We have the numbers of homes visited, the number of residents, the value of the meals per day for some but not the number of homes which have spent such a meagre amount. Nor are we told what food was offered by the homes which spent the low amount, was it slops or was it nutritious meals cooked on the premises.
    Nan Norma
    13th Feb 2018
    4:42pm
    I rang my friend in a nursing home. She's an excellent cook. She says that morning she had a choice of cereals, plus bacon and eggs and orange juice. For lunch, she had lasagna and had chosen fish for dinner. there is always a menu to choose from. She's very happy with the meals. So not all nursing homes are the same. And I should say this is not an upmarket place.
    Pat
    13th Feb 2018
    5:40pm
    Well said Nan Norma
    Pat
    13th Feb 2018
    5:15pm
    OK, so I am going to weigh in on this latest critical expose re aged care facilities. Reading comments in the Courier Mail this morning made me very angry. Every time a story like this appears in the media it does irreparable damage to the industries reputation as a whole. Having worked in the sector for many years I feel that I am qualified to make a statement.

    1) Proprietors are in this to make a buck. Well of course they are. It is no different to any other business. I may add that aged care is one of the most regulated industries out there. Accreditation every 3 years where all standards and outcomes need to be met and if not, those outstanding need to be addressed promptly and are followed up on by the agency. Regular audits, validation checks and spot checks between each accreditation. Aged care facilities are notoriously understaffed. This is true. Staffing levels are dictated by the ACFI funding received for each resident which indicates the level of care the Govt dictates should be provided. The level of paper work required to validate this funding just boggles the mind, often resulting in many hours of unpaid overtime to achieve.

    The Govt are not dealing with the many challenging behaviours exhibited by many residents in these facilities which take an inordinate amount of time for staff to manage WITHOUT the administration of antipsychotic medication or Benzodiazapines. I can proudly state that my former facility, in conjunction with our accredited pharmacist drastically reduced the amt of these medications our residents were prescribed. I also need to state, that when these behavioural situations occur these residents require 1:1 care and attention. Often difficult when understaffed but our facility always did its best. This has a ricochet effect though as staff are often delayed attending to the many other people they need to administer care to, often with disgruntled or abusive responses from those kept waiting.

    2) Relatives posting pictures of sub standard food. I can only state that the facility I worked in for 17 yrs has a very good reputation in this community and taking into consideration they have to prepare and serve food on a large scale....they don't do too badly.

    Typical menu at this facility:

    Breakfast: Porridge, cereal, toast, spreads of choice. Some clients would request an egg and the support staff did their best to oblige. Tea/coffee/milo.
    Morning Tea: Cake/slice/biscuits and a beverage of choice.
    Lunch: Main hot meal of the day. Sweets and beverage of choice.
    Afternoon Tea: The same as morning tea.
    Dinner: Soup, bread and a choice of the hot meal on offer (eg: scrambled eggs with toast, a curry, pasta dish, a savoury slice...and yes...FINGER FOOD !!!) or a salad or sandwiches. Fresh fruit. Beverage of choice.
    Supper: Beverage of choice with sandwiches or biscuits.

    THIS IS FAR MORE THAN I WOULD EVER EAT IN A DAY !!!

    Lifestyle staff provide "Happy Hour" regularly, special morning teas, and the facility often hosted BBQ's which the families of our residents were encouraged to attend. Many of the relatives attended lunch on a daily basis and ate with their loved ones for a very small charge which would not even buy you a seniors counter lunch at the local pub.

    3) Many people as they age lose appetite, become less mobile or immobile consequently losing muscle mass which does = weight loss. Many of our residents GAINED weight. Often to the point where it impacted on their health status and mobility.
    It was not uncommon for the majority of residents to gain weight after they entered our facility and we had to encourage strategies for some of these people to lose weight.

    4) All of our residents were weighed monthly. Some of concern (> 2kg weight loss in a month) were weighed weekly or fortnightly. Dietician consulted for residents of concern and supplements initiated. Referral to Speech Pathologist promptly for any residents with a swallowing concern and their recommendations followed.

    5) Any residents who were unsettled at night were offered food and a warm drink as the initial remedy (particularly those with dementia) and often this alone, if effective. Next issue addressed would be pain and appropriate analgesia offered/given. Infrequently, sedation was administered and if it was after midnight, withheld.

    6) I think these stories are an insult to the many dedicated PCA's/AIN's, RN's, EEN's, Support Staff, Leisure and Lifestyle staff and Allied Health staff who work so hard to look after the elderly, many with wages not commensurate with our counterparts in the acute sector. The amount of unpaid overtime worked by staff, particularly RN's is astronomical.

    7) Finally. Many of our elderly reach that stage in their lives where they elect to stop eating and drinking. This is a trajectory well recognised in palliation and should be respected. I sure as hell hope that no one tries to feed me if I am at this stage. Just keep me comfortable.
    I have nursed residents whose "well meaning" relatives have insisted they be artificially hydrated by means of an NG tube or PEG tube. I have seen these people exist for many years with a system such as this in place with absolutely no quality of life. I have also seen those "concerned" relatives stop visiting after the feeding regime is initiated. Tragic !!
    I have nursed dying residents whose relatives insist on trying to feed them orally when swallowing is impaired, risking aspiration and subsequent pneumonia.
    By the time a patient reaches this stage you can be certain that all measures to sustain their nutrition and hydration have been utilised. When they reached this stage, in my former facility, we respected their wishes, informed their medical practitioners and of course had many often lengthy conversations with their loved ones re the process.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    17th Feb 2018
    11:32am
    I guess it depends on the facility. I checked out several for an aging relative. The one she chose fed residents very well - much like the one you describe, Pat. The aging lady was delighted that she had a choice of three menu items at each meal. All meals were cooked on site with fresh, locally sourced ingredients

    But another transported pre-cooked meals from a hundred km away and served them stone cold. There was no choice. It was ''eat this or starve''. The quality was appalling.

    Overall, both facilities left a lot to be desired. I am disturbed by your comment about staffing, because staffing is grossly inadequate, but I thought that was due to the greed of management.

    What is certain is that the profits from these facilities are generally excessive. They should not be run with a profit motive at all. This is not a suitable activity for private enterprise. It's about people's health and well-being at the most vulnerable time in their lives, and they should never have their comfort compromised for profit.
    MICK
    13th Feb 2018
    6:42pm
    This article us flawed and bears little resemblance to a country which has a pension system. Australia is NOT the third world and it is about time people stopped this BS and started to own up to HOW they spend their (free) taxpayer funded dollars. I'd love to to spend a week in the lives of those who claim to have no money as it is likely of their doing as opposed to 'no money'.
    Sorry to not be more sympathetic but I hear a tale being told.
    TREBOR
    13th Feb 2018
    7:25pm
    Steady, Mick - some have battled all their lives to end up with very little.... and to be robbed at every turn.

    Don't generalise like our heemies and such..

    You have no idea why people are in the position they are...
    Rosret
    13th Feb 2018
    9:58pm
    Is it just government money? I think a lot of residents have to pay their own way.
    OnlyGenuineRainey
    17th Feb 2018
    11:26am
    Mick, I might be tempted to agree with some of your comment, but it isn't relevant to aged care facilities, where people can pay big dollars and get no better treatment than those who pay nothing. In fact, you are far better off disposing of all assets before going into one of those places! The self-funded retiree who pays a high price for his room in aged care is fed no differently than the irresponsible gambler who frittered everything away and was leaner for decades.
    Johnny
    14th Feb 2018
    9:11am
    Shameful.
    Glenda
    14th Feb 2018
    7:30pm
    Of course meals in an aged care facility is issue for me. My mother aged 89 years is in a nursing home which is said to be "pretty good" but that is all eyewash! The "meals" are a total disgrace. On their website, this nursing home states that they provide "nutritious meals" to their residents. What nutrition??? I have read that nursing homes on average make a profit of $25K per annum per resident. I am totally frustrated and saddened when I see the meals that are served up to my mother and to the residents, many of whom end up not eating, would rather starve than eat the nursing home offensive looking absolutely distasteful "food". No wonder that our old elderly dear ones are dying of malnutrition in nursing homes. This is yet another form of elderly abuse coming from nursing homes. Would the minister KEN WYATT, PLEASE....PLEASE....PLEASE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS SOON??? why do these GREEDY nursing homes owners/proprietors make our loved ones starve thus shortening their lives.
    Mez
    21st Feb 2018
    11:45am
    Legally, that is known as ELDER ABUSE!
    Those guilty of it SHOULD BE MADE ACCOUNTABLE AND PAY THE PRICE!!!


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