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Dietitian services in Long Term Care


Why are dietitian services important in long term care?

Residents are now entering LTC with more complex medical and cognitive conditions than ever before. Many are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition due to swallowing disorders, frailty, and chronic health issues. Dietitian services are required to meet resident needs and improve quality of life.

What do dietitians do in LTC?
Long term care (also sometimes called extended or continuing care) includes services that help meet the needs of people with chronic health issues or frailty who require 24 hour care. These types of facilities provide medical and nursing care, along with all daily meals.  This means that dietitians play an important role in the health and well-being of residents in long term care by providing individualized nutrition care, and recommending operational policies for residents’ optimal nutrition and hydration. 

Across the country, the time and budget for dietitian services varies by province, along with the expectations of services that the dietitian should provide. These can include nutrition assessments, development of care plans, staff education and training, development of menus and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Advocacy for dietitian services in long term care

Here’s what DC would like to see for long term care nutrition and dietitian services:
  • Assessment of all residents upon admission to determine their nutrition risk.
  • A nutrition care plan for all residents developed and monitored by a dietitian.
  • Facility menus (3 to 4 week cycle menu), approved by a dietitian, that are balanced and meet the nutrition and fluid needs of residents.
  • Consultation with a dietitian on all therapeutic diets including texture-modified and food allergy diets.
  • Qualified food service staff that are trained in safe food handling practices. 
Recent advocacy actions:
Dietitians across the country have contributed to the review of regulations for long term care to support dietitian staffing and optimal nutrition and hydration for residents.  DC, in our ongoing government engagement along with pre-budget submissions and during election campaigns, advocates for increased access to dietitian services and more funding to support high quality food choices in long term care. Here are some recent actions:
  • February 2019: The Ontario Long Term Care Action Group developed a working paper that identified best practices for nutrition, food service and dining in LTC homes. This information has been updated regularly since 2007.
  • March 2018This Pan Canadian Scan outlines the dietitian services in LTC in each province and territory. Access to dietitians care is inequitable despite many risk factors for poor nutrition.
  • December 2016: The Ontario Long Term Care Action Group surveyed DC members in LTC to capture their activities and time spent, along with their perspectives on staffing impacts.

 What can you do to learn more or get involved in long-term care?

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