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Nutrition for Active and Healthy Aging

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Emotional support for aged care residents

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Mar 25, 2020 in Aged Care

Going into aged care can be fraught with grief and other crippling emotions as people leave the homes and people they love, lose their independence and grapple with fading health.


Indeed, a review conducted on behalf of Beyondblue two years ago found that older people living in residential aged care facilities are five times more prone to mental health issues than their independently living counterparts.


In one bid to address the mental health issues that can surface at this time, Anglicare has launched a new Emotional Wellbeing for Older Persons Service for aged care facilities in northern Sydney.



Mental health support


The program seeks to provide a balm for depression and anxiety, helping these people, who tend to go under the radar of mental health services, cope with the life challenges they face.


“Over half of permanent aged care residents experience some degree of depression,” says Anne Gaffney, manager of the new program, “yet there is a gap in mental health service provision within registered aged care facilities.”


The initiative is part of a $82.5 million investment by the Australian Government, aimed to help address the gap.


With a focus on psychological therapy, residents are assigned a case manager to help them talk about their care and recent losses of loved ones. They also learn relaxation techniques and memory retention strategies.


Group therapy and skills-building workshops help staff identify and support those who are struggling with mental health challenges.


“This program is an important step in recognising and treating the complex health needs of older people,” says Anglicare’s head of mental health, David Ip.


“We hope that through this program we can develop a model that can be rolled out across the whole aged care network.”



Lest we forget


When talking about psychological wellbeing, let’s not forget about the importance of lifestyle factors that improve physical health – such as sleep, social interaction and physical activity – and also contribute to mental health.


These simple yet vital practices can not only help ward off depression and anxiety but dementia as well.


It’s perhaps less well-recognised that nutrition and diet, crucial for physical health, is also important for psychological wellbeing, with recent calls for mental health professionals to start prescribing food.


In aged care, where malnutrition is a serious problem, it’s especially important to focus on providing food that is nutritious and tasty in a supportive, pleasant environment.


Even better, why not combine this with communal cooking, engaging residents with familiar foods and social interaction.


It’s never too late to get active, which can boost muscle strength – and all the associated physical health benefits – as well as mental health.


And of course the animal lovers amongst us will appreciate the importance of pet therapy – these furry, four-legged godsends are guaranteed to make people smile.








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Junk food in aged care

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Feb 17, 2020 in Aged Care, Malnutrition, Nutrition, Supplements

While malnutrition is an insidious problem in aged care, simply giving residents more biscuits and cake is not the answer.


Yet that is what many residential facilities are doing, according to research in Melbourne presented at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.



Skimping on protein


In fact, the study added to evidence that aged care facilities have been spending less on food, and in the process skimping on high protein sources – critical with aging to prevent disability and malnutrition.


Previous research by the group found that two thirds of residents were malnourished or at risk of malnutrition – and inadequate protein was a major factor.


Essentially, the facilities they researched only provided one serve of high-protein food, such as lean meat, seafood, eggs, poultry and legumes per day – only half of the recommended two serves every day.


Dairy protein only amounted to one serve each day, falling well short of the recommended four servings.


At the same time, the amount of “discretionary foods” high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats and devoid of nutrients has increased.


So while centres might be trying to save costs, it’s a false economy, lead researcher Dr Sandra Iuliano argues.


Malnutrition results in a host of poor outcomes including bed sores, falls, poor wound healing and general immunity.


This is not only debilitating for sufferers; it also increases hospital stays, estimated to add nearly $1,800 to the cost of each admission.



Putting things right


Some argue that a ban on junk foods in health care facilities is a good start, and research shows it helps shape behaviour and improve diets.


For aged care, where a healthy diet is most critical, mandatory nutrition standards would help lift and standardise the quality of food and nutrition provided – with a particular focus on delivering quality protein.


As we age, protein becomes increasingly important to prevent loss of muscle mass and related problems including frailty and sarcopenia.


Beyond protein, poor and medium quality diets have been associated with 92% and 40% greater incidence of frailty, respectively, than a high quality diet.


Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can also reduce the risk of dementia.


Supporting older adults to eat healthy food – even just one extra meal a day – can save lives, and even replace a big chunk of unnecessary, expensive and harmful drugs.


Enhancing the dining experience would help overcome many obstacles to eating well, such as improving the sensory experience, and making food more appealing through greater choice, communal dining, cooking smells and attractive food presentation.


Some centres have even engaged residents with cooking to help stimulate appetite with foods they are familiar with – an enjoyable, social and stimulating activity with multiple rewards.


As Sandra Iuliano says, “It’s not about adding years to life; it’s about adding quality to the years they have.”





Sustainability initiatives in aged care

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Dec 30, 2019 in Aged Care, Sustainability

Like all industries in the 21st century, the aged care sector is under increasing pressure to factor sustainability into its business model and long-term planning.


This includes employee satisfaction and social equity, which are necessary for a thriving, successful business and for achieving sustainable solutions and resident wellbeing.



The need


The intimate connection between environmental and economic considerations is becoming harder to ignore as precious resources dwindle and prices go up.


Population growth is driving up demand for food, water, energy and land, while reliance on fossil fuels and excess waste is becoming increasingly untenable.


Add to that an ageing population, with a quarter of Australians expected to be over 65 in just three decades, increasing demand for residential care facilities.


Key pressures to make these sustainable by minimising water and energy use and waste derive from the need to operate more efficiently and to create a good reputation.


Evidence shows that engaging employees through sustainable programs is fundamental to achieving positive outcomes, through their input into generating ideas and carrying them out.


“An investment in sustainability – people, planet and prosperity – is core to how an organisation can succeed and prosper as a business,” writes sustainable business expert, Dr Kaushik Sridhar.



The initiatives


Energy bills in aged care can be reduced by 80%, according to energy efficiency consultancy Conservia, as well as improving resident comfort and staff productivity, and can even achieve net zero energy use.


Their aged care package involves a multipronged approach included solar panels, submetering, a system to manage the building’s mechanical and electrical equipment, reflective window films, thermal paint for cooler roofs, and voltage optimisation.


Educating staff is also a high priority, to teach them how to use central control systems and change behaviours around opening windows and doors.


Some places, like HammondCare, are also getting creative with recycled materials, harvesting grey water, water-efficient gardens and optimised natural light as part of their Environmental Position Statement that aims to reduce energy and waste.


LED lighting and solar installations are key energy saving tools, which Regis Aged Care is focussing on at 35 of its sites across Australia to reduce their energy bills and environmental footprint.


They estimate these steps alone, involving enough solar panels to cover 33 tennis courts and more than 15,000 lights, could reduce annual energy consumption by up to 20% and greenhouse gas emissions by 3,700 tonnes, the equivalent of taking 1,500 cars off the road.


Importantly, their investment is projected to pay itself off in less than four years.


Warrigal aged care has been making impressive inroads in sustainable strategies for more than ten years through university collaborations, winning them several sustainability awards.


As well as energy efficiency initiatives, they have created a ‘sustainability in the home’ guide for independent living residents. They also recycle clothing and buy Greenfleet carbon offsets.


Committed to finding ways to reduce energy and waste and to apply sustainability design standards to new and upgraded buildings, sustainability manager David Rogers also recognises the importance of developing the right staff culture.


“We acknowledge that this is an ongoing journey and until sustainability is ingrained as a habit in all of our 750 staff, I’m not going to consider it successful,” he told Ageing Agenda.



And more…


Joining in the spirit, enterprising residents at Emmaus Village have been teaming up to recycle plastic bottles through Scouts Recycling Centre and have raised funds that go back into organising activities for the residents.


Others are putting on their gardening gloves, which not only reduces the need for food packaging and transport, but also has established benefits for physical and mental health and wellbeing.


Food waste is another pressing environmental and economic issue, especially pertinent to health care facilities. Solutions are also at hand here, such as the Love Food Hate Waste Program.


Anglican Care trialled it and reduced food waste by 6,000 kg per year on average per residential aged care, diverting it from landfill to local farms as mulch and compost – a win-win all round.





Reconnecting with cooking in aged care

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Sep 5, 2019 in Aged Care

Few of life’s pleasures match the gratification and connection that comes with crafting a meal for loved ones, sending mouth-watering aromas wafting through the house and sitting down to eat, drink, chat and share stories.


This is one of the activities that older adults lose when they move to aged care. But one retirement village has brought it back.


Scalibrini Village is a group of aged care facilities that specialise in dementia and palliative care in NSW. They have employed Italian-speaking staff and Italian food to not only engage residents in cooking but reconnect them to their culture – which is much more than just food.


To embed the experience, they produced the Scalabrini Village Cookbook “Cibo é vita” (cooking is life), featuring Italian recipes that are well-known and loved by the residents.



A way of life


“Most of Scalabrini’s Italian residents come from a background where food isn’t purely a source of human nourishment; it’s a way of life,” says Daz Smith, advisor at the village.


Traditional Mediterranean diets have received much attention for their health benefits. They also bring people together through cooking and eating together and promoting social interactions which are another important aspect of healthy aging.


Familiarity is something else that people miss in aged care, according to a report by the MBF, including familiar food, eating environment and people from assorted cultures.



Health and wellbeing


There is an urgent need to enhance nutrition and flavour in aged care food. Enjoying home-cooked food in a warm, convivial environment also motivates people to eat more, addressing the prevalent issue of malnutrition in older adults.


And cooking has its own unique benefits. A large review found that mental stimulation can help improve cognition and mood in people with dementia – that includes baking.


At Scalabrini, Smith witnessed this himself, saying that he saw residents’ moods pick up when they were in the kitchen. Engaging in familiar tasks can stimulate memories at a time when they are slipping away.


“In the early stages of dementia,” he explains, “people find great satisfaction in assisting with preparing foods like they may have done for years in their family home.”


“In the later stages of dementia, the taste, colour, aroma, feel and presentation of the food becomes an important part of a sensory experience.” Indeed, stimulating all the senses not only stirs memories but can also improve appetite.


While aged care is long overdue for a desperately overhaul to improve conditions across the board, the village demonstrates that cooking and eating home cooked food is a pleasurable and achievable target that ticks several boxes at once.










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