There have been some terrible stories coming out in the media in the past few days, some of which we have shared via social media.

Who could fathom their loved one being so sadly neglected that his wounds were full of maggots? When confronted, the manager of the home stated that maggots were good for wounds, and kept them clean. While that may be true, the gentleman in question had not consented to this as a medical treatment – his wounds had simply not been cleaned or dressed in goodness knows how long. Revolting, careless behaviour and an abhorrent, uncaring attitude from senior management.

A petition signatory shared their despair at the meals being served to their family member. Due to dietary needs, many aged care residents need vitamised meals, or soft foods as they cannot chew or swallow properly. In a good facility, these meals will be adapted from the days menu, and served attractively – anyone who has spent time in a nursing home or even a hospital, knows that your entire day can revolve around meal times. For some residents it might be the only time they are sitting with their peers and able to engage socially – some are chair bound and are often parked out of the way in common areas, and can’t move themselves to talk to people if they wish. Some residents may need to be fed, and could have a staff member spending time with them as a result – priceless for those with communication issues or who are confused and lonely. Feeding your loved one at visiting time might be the only way you can still help them and many families love to do this.

So now imagine you’re in a facility where budget is the ruling factor in meals. Kitchen staff make up one big batch of soft/pureed/vitamised meals at the start of the week, and freeze them. So every day for a week, someone might get the SAME meal for lunch and dinner every day. It does happen. Now imagine it is colourless, unseasoned blobs of food that has just been plopped on a plate, and your care worker is in a hurry because there is one of them and five or six people to feed. They haven’t time to wait for your food to cool, so they stir it impatiently like baby food, then spoon it into your mouth as quickly as they can. You might be eating potato, or pumpkin – you’re not too sure because it’s all mixed up with a big spoonful of gravy which returns some moisture to the dried out plate that has been sitting on the warmer for an hour or so while kitchen staff prepare the fresh meals for other residents. I have seen these meals described as “baby food” “dog food” and “pig slop”, and unfortunately, it is a very fair assessment. I wouldn’t eat it. Why should our residents?

This reminds me of another story of my own. One resident loved icecream, but for some reason management had decided that wasn’t a soft food (???) – so every meal he was given pureed fruit from a tin with yoghurt. He hated it and would spit it out. Every meal he would ask for icecream like a small, sad child watching others eat in front of him. Most staff just ignored him – after all management had said no icecream. Soon enough he started eating in his room alone. He stopped coming out all together after just a few weeks. His disease was progressing, but he still asked for icecream. Whenever I made up the dinner trays, that resident got his icecream – and topping too!

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