A collection of resources has been earmarked to tackle malnutrition in residential aged care facilities – the “silent faceless abuser” – by establishing a response unit and complaints hotline.

From July 2023, aged care workers and the loved ones of aged care residents will be able to file a report if providers deliver poor meals at their residential facilities in an attempt to create a milestone step in integrating dietitians into the aged care sector to properly combat malnutrition.

A hotline has been put into place by the Federal Government and Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (the Commission) where complaints will be recorded. The Commission expressed the importance of good quality food and nutrition for older people and called for nutrition to be improved in aged care in its final report.

“Malnutrition has been a silent faceless abuser in Australian aged care for decades,” said Dietitians Australia’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Robert Hunt.

“This is the start of the end of malnutrition in aged care in this country. The only guaranteed way to lift the bar on the food and nutrition offerings is to include dietitians in the picture, and it appears the government has finally hit the mark on this.”

Significant consequences of poor nutrition can lead to an increased risk of falls and fractures, pressure injuries taking longer to heal, and a higher risk of infection which puts more strain on aged care workers.

Funded by the 2022 Federal Budget, almost $13 million has been allocated to set up the hotline and new advisory body, to strengthen food and nutrition reporting by checking facilities of concern and their menus, and giving them more direct expert dietary advice to improve the  dining experience of residents.

The initiatives will be delivered through the advisory body – the Food, Nutrition and Dining Advisory Support unit – which is a part of the Commission.

Aged Care Minister, Anika Wells, said the Government was “committed to ensuring everyone living in residential aged care receives nutritious meals” and that it recognises “the need to work lock-step with dietitians to lift the quality of food and nutrition in residential aged care”.