In this article from the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, a Leading Nutrition dietitian, shares her tips on dietary communication in an aged care setting.
The power of nutrition and hydration is often underestimated in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). It can transport a resident back to their childhood as they enjoy their favourite dessert, provide an opportunity for their loved ones to be involved in their care and offer vital nutrients to sustain their frail skin.
Juggling a nutritious menu, individual resident preferences and dietary interventions for resident health and quality of life can be challenging and overwhelming. As an experienced Dietitian in the aged care setting, I’d like to help you form pathways to manage this with ease and clarity.
Why? At best, miscommunication of dietary information may result in a resident simply receiving a meal that they don’t like. At worst, they may receive food which they are allergic to, are not able to swallow safely or miss out on vital nutrients required to meet their dietary needs. The effects of this can be devastating, impacting on not only the resident, but also family and staff.
How? A facility needs to have a clear system of communication, understood and accessible by all staff, to provide suitable food and drinks to residents.
- With the team, formulate a flow chart of the process for communicating dietary changes and information.
- Detailthe responsibility of all staff, include time frames.
- Is specific administration or clinical time required to review and update information? How long does this process take?
- What occurs with changes needing to be implemented immediately?
- What occurs with changes outside of business hours?
- Record the date and time of dietary changes and updated information. Recording staff name may also be appropriate.
- Inform external team members (eg: allied health) so that they can work within your processes.
Outcome? With clear communication streams and documented processes, you can be confident that residents are receiving the food and drinks that are suitable for them, that all staff are confident in knowing what residents need and that the team works consistently towards keeping dietary information up to date and accurate.
This is everyone’s responsibility in the team! And as a facility, you are reducing the risk to residents, closing any gaps in nutrition documentation and remaining accreditation-ready all year round.
Article author Adele Cooper is Senior Dietitian at Leading Nutrition, a team of Aged Care Specialist Dietitians who provide Dietitian services to aged care homes around Australia