Down, down, nutrition is down!

A major supermarket chain used to have a slogan, Feed your family for under $10 a day. It seems the Australian aged care sector is working hard to get to the point where they feed nursing home residents for half that.

A study (What does it cost to feed aged care residents in Australia?) published in the July issue of Nutrition & Dietetics, by the Dietitians Association of Australia, says that the current spend on food in nursing homes is down compared with previous years. Increasingly, nursing homes rely on food supplements.

Spending on food and supplements in nursing homes is significantly less than the food spend in overseas nursing homes, in the Australian community and in Australian prisons.

The study puts the average total spend on catering, including raw food, cutlery, crockery, supplements etc at $8.00 per resident per day and shrinking. The raw food component of that was $6.08.

By comparison, the average Canadian raw food spend is $8.63 and rising, while Norway spent $20.41 per resident per day.

According to ABS data, older Australian couples living at home spend $34.50 per day on raw food equating to $17.50 each person.

Even Australian prisons spend more: $8.25 per inmate, per day.

As a result of significant underspending on food and lack of staff to assist residents at meal times, malnutrition affects at least one in two residents in Australian nursing homes.

While the rates of malnutrition among elderly Australians living in their own home are comparable, one of the primary functions of nursing homes is to make sure people are properly nourished.

Malnutrition increases the risk of falls, pressure injuries and hospital admissions. This leads to poorer resident quality of life and increased health-care costs.

According to the Aged Care Financing Authority, nursing home earnings per resident in the 2017 year were up 9 per cent. This has obviously been achieved, in part, by reducing food spend. It just goes to show that in Australian nursing homes, profits are put before people.