The Dietitians’ peak body has called on aged care providers to ensure they are engaging accredited practising dietitians as new reporting requirements come into effect for unexplained weight loss.
The Dietitians’ Association of Australia (DAA) says accredited dietitians have an important role in ensuring appropriate action is taken when unplanned weight loss is recorded and to implement nutrition policies that promote quality care.
The new reporting rules commence today and require Commonwealth-subsidised residential aged care homes to collect and report on three clinical quality indicators: unplanned weight loss, pressure injuries and use of physical restraint, under the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program.
DAA CEO, Robert Hunt said accredited dietitians are under-utilised resource in aged care but good nutrition is a key component of all three quality indicators.
“The greater the health impact, the more challenging it is for a resident to regain their health. While the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program ensures the recording of valuable information, for some residents, acting at this point will be too late. It is critical to implement food and nutrition support to prevent the deterioration of residents’ health,” Mr Hunt said.
Nutrition is a key component of the three quality indicators. Malnutrition, poor appetite, muscle loss, illness and medications, are all common causes of unplanned weight loss. Impacts of ageing such as a decrease in sense of taste and smell, changes to oral health, swallowing difficulties, and reduced nutrient absorption also contribute to weight decline.
Unplanned weight loss leads to a loss in muscle and fat stores, heightening the risk of pressure injuries. Without adequate intake of protein and energy, wound healing is delayed, further exacerbating health issues. Malnutrition can also arise from the use of physical restraints.
“Accredited dietitians are key to managing the nutrition care of older Australians. They identify nutrition health issues and implement a food-focused solution. Across clinical and food service areas, they have the skills to assess and enhance care provided, supporting residents to optimise their health,” Mr Hunt said.
Malnutrition is already identified as a significant issue for aged care residents across Australia with a prevalence of up to 50%1. This clearly highlights the importance of food and nutrition as we age.
“Older Australians have cared for all of us at some point in our lives. We now have a duty of care to provide adequate nutrition that is vital for their physical and mental health. Engaging an accredited dietitian in both community and residential care is critical to support older Australians’ quality of life through quality care,” said Mr Hunt.