Aged care reform is here

Aged care reform is here

The aged care sector will experience a paradigm shift this year as a result of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Royal Commission) and the introduction of IDDSI and new Aged Care Quality Standards.

The Federal Government’s recent $662m funding boost, while perhaps politically motivated, is certainly welcome. The residential aged care sector is expected to receive $320m of that funding. However, it’s important to see this increase in the context of an effective $902m cut to aged care since the 2016/17 Budget.

It’s no wonder we have a system under pressure.

At its second hearing, the Royal Commission stated its intention to address the bigger picture, rather than looking at problems in isolation. Further, the Commission highlighted the importance of creating a culture of appreciation and respect for older Australians to help them age well, whether they’re living at home or in residential care. Hopefully, this will lead to a system that is stronger, safer and sustainable into the future.

In the context of these bigger macro issues comes the practical realities of delivering aged care services, which include giving real choice to residents. With eating making up nearly half (45%) of a resident’s day, food and the dining experience will be a key factor in resident satisfaction. However, as many residents are unable to eat food in its normal state due to dysphagia or dexterity issues, aged care facilities face further complexity providing a food service that is both visually appealing and nutritionally appropriate.

At every meal service, aged care chefs must potentially cater for up to eight different textures, four different fluid thicknesses, 15 cultural preferences, 100 intolerances and allergies – six times a day, 365 days a year!

Aggregated data from facilities that currently use SoupedUp Catering software^ shows that only 43% of residents consume a ‘regular’ food texture. More than 26% need their food to be cut up due to dexterity issues and the remainder are on a variation of Soft (17%), Minced and Moist (8%), or Puree (7%) texture modified diets. Almost 10% of residents require modified fluids.

If we examine further the specific dietary requirements of residents, the diversity and complexity is even more evident. Restrictions can range from gluten free, low fibre, high fibre, dairy free, vegetarian, low fat, high fat, lactose free, high calcium, low salt, no acid, low potassium, high protein, coeliac to weight reduction. And these don’t even cover religious and cultural preferences such as Kosher, Halal or Hindu dietary codes.

How well providers manage these delicate and complex dietary requirements will be key to resident satisfaction in the future.

The operational aspects of food service in aged care will also be key to long-term sustainability. Many facilities currently operate a catering service that is a manual paper or spreadsheet-based system. These outdated methods cost facilities hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars* in unnecessary administration. Moreover, manual menu management increases the risk of miscommunication between clinical, care and catering teams. Something that could result in serious complications if residents are served the wrong texture or ingredient.

To be sustainable, aged care providers must find better ways to deliver an efficient, fit for purpose food service, while offering residents greater choice and control.

Technology is rapidly changing the most labour intensive and costly parts of running an aged care business.

Catering operations can be easily streamlined by digitising menu planning and costing. Critical resident dietary requirements and preferences can be shared between clinical, care and catering teams instantly. With new IDDSI standards set to launch in May, training and up skilling catering and care staff will be vital, as will a ready-made system that maps current textures to the new IDDSI textures seamlessly.

The future of aged care catering is already here. Now is the time to take advantage of it.

^ Figures from SoupedUp Catering Software, 12 February 2019 * Time and cost savings based on an aged care facility of 80-90 beds, including subscription fees. Source data based on average time and costs spent by 24 facilities switching from paper based system to SoupedUp Catering.



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