Toolkit feeds an appetite for aged care improvement


A growing appetite to improve the health and wellbeing of aged care residents is being helped by a breakthrough toolkit that aims to improve their mealtime and dining experience. 

A decade of focused research by Professor Michelle Miller and her team at Flinders’ Caring Futures Institute has led to the creation of the innovative Food Enjoyment and Satisfaction Team (FEAST) toolkit, which comprises three aged care food service satisfaction questionnaires aimed at assessing the views of residents, families and the staff of aged care homes.  

Professor Michelle Miller

Combining these three points of view for the first time to get broader view of the situation will provide more focused solutions. The toolkit can also recommend appropriate, low-cost options for the improvement of food services, provided through the toolkit’s evidence-based library of proven strategies. 

Professor Miller says the recently commercialised FEAST Toolkit will support residential aged care homes to identify gaps in their stakeholders’ satisfaction with dining and mealtime experiences.  

“I have been doing research in aged care since 1996, but the initial thinking about filling this particular gap in available resources first took shape in 2016 – so it has been almost a decade of deliberate work to build this toolkit,” says Professor Miller. 

“I’m so proud we have achieved a completed product and to reach beyond the original vision, because it now has the capacity for the concept to be extended and do so much more.” 

The three rigorously designed and tested questionnaires will provide a catalyst for continuous quality improvement and allow organisations to tailor changes that best meet the needs of residents, while benchmarking performance against FEAST State and National data. 

Promotion of the toolkit across all 2,700 Australian aged care homes began in August 2023, thanks to a joint venture between the FEAST team with the Maggie Beer Foundation, and was then publicly launched at a national conference in October 2023, promoting it to the gamut of service provers. 

As a result, licence agreements have been created for aged care providers, researchers, universities and dietitians. Consequently, the FEAST Toolkit is now well-recognised in both the scientific community and within the aged care industry. 

The FEAST team has also received interest from hospitals, home care providers and meal delivery services in Australia, along with a health care provider in Canada – and the toolkit has been recognised by the Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. 

The next challenge is finding adequate resources to promote the toolkit extensively, although Professor Miller is confident its quality will be recognised and embraced by the wider aged care sector.  

“It’s still early days but there has been a lot of interest in the toolkit. Now we want to see it used in a range of settings so that it adds value to aged care facilities, dietetic consulting practices and training facilities.”  

Academic findings of the FEAST questionnaire outcomes have been published in a series of peer-reviewed articles, and are also being used to support dietitians who consult to residential aged care homes, along with training organisations involved in aged care workforce development and universities that train health professionals. 

FEAST outcomes are already being used to inform training by the Maggie Beer Foundation, funded by the Department of Health, that instructs cooks and chefs how to improve aged care food services. The important next step for the FEAST project is to provide yet more training that will enable easy change to occur once concerns have been identified.  

“This toolkit has great possibilities, and its early success points to a whole new layer of exploration – such as aged-care homes that cater specifically for first nations people, and to deliver something meaningful to them that specifically meets their needs,” says Professor Miller. 

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Quality Aged Care