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Malnutrition: silent health epidemic, Aged Care Royal Commission

aged care malnutrition

This week, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality turns its attention to the importance of nutrition.

Meals on Wheels Australia believes that increased community awareness of the importance of good nutrition for older people, and making it easier and more affordable for people to access and receive community nutrition services, would greatly improve the health and well-being of older Australians.

“Malnutrition in older people is a silent health epidemic,” President of Meals on Wheels Australia, Ms Sharyn Broer, said.

“Around 40% of older people living in the community are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. That’s one million Australians whose health and quality of life is affected.

“Malnutrition in older people is both preventable and treatable.  It is not a natural consequence of older age. However, older Australians are poorly informed about their changing nutrition requirements and there is limited community awareness”.

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Eating well helps people to age well. Each year, more than 100,000 older Australians are supported to eat well by delivered meal programs such as Meals on Wheels, which is a proven, effective solution that provides benefits to the consumer, health and aged care systems.

National Meal Guidelines developed by Meals on Wheels Australia are specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of older people.

“Changes to community aged care policy and funding over the past decade have made it more difficult for malnourished older Australians to receive the supports they need,” Ms Broer said.

“The Commonwealth Home Support Programme provides funding intended to help older people receive affordable meal services, but the level of funding is not keeping up with rising costs.

“Many Meals on Wheels services are gravely concerned about their continued viability while they struggle to cap the payments made by consumers, who contribute at least half of the cost of operating the service.”

Complicated eligibility and needs assessments are also making things more difficult.

“Meals on Wheels Australia is calling on the Australian Government to entitle all Australians aged 80 years and over to directly access meal support services, with the consumer’s contribution limited to the cost of the ingredients,” Ms Broer said.

“This would create an equitable national service system on par with services provided to Home Care Package and National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.”