Residents in aged care facilities are often placed on thickened fluids as part of their management plan for swallowing difficulties. This can be a costly exercise. Both research and practice show that there are lots of cost saving, and resident satisfaction improving, measures that can be taken.
Here are some simple ways you can reduce the costs associated with this intervention:
- Only provide thickened fluids to those who actually need it. This seems self-explanatory, but the number of residents on thickened fluids is over prescribed by around 30%. Before a resident is placed on thickened fluids, ensure they’re assessed by someone who has had formal training in the management of dysphagia (this means there may be residents in your facility who could have this intervention removed)
- Provide the right amount of thickening agent… at the right time. Over 50% of thickeners are wasted due to incomplete intake. One reason for this is that thickening agents will thicken for a few minutes and then stabilise (some continue to get thicker with time). This can create both overuse and also fluids that aren’t consumed due to being too thick. Train staff to ensure drinks are made at the right thickness, at the right time, every time.
- Regularly review if the residents still need the thickened fluids. In a recent survey of residents who were identified as having “stable” swallowing issues, statistics showed around close to 3/4 of all residents needed their diet and/or fluids modified. Approximately 1/3 of these actually had their diet upgraded (which means the removal of need to modify, also a staff time-saving measure)
- Provide normal fluids between meals. Some residents may be suitable to receive normal (thin) water between meals. The “Free Water Protocol” is an approach that not only reduces thickener costs, but can also be prescribed by a speech pathologist to maximise hydration and quality of life.
- Monitor fluid intake. With over 50% of thickeners being wasted due to incomplete intake, as part of a plate wastage audit it’s worth noting how much fluid each resident is actually consuming. Serving sizes and hydration plans can then be adjusted accordingly, reducing waste and costs.
For every resident unnecessarily receiving thickened fluids, this creates a significant opportunity to reduce unnecessary costs (the average cost saving is around $640 per annum for mildly thick fluids). Ensuring changes to texture modified diet and fluids are made by specialists in dysphagia risk-management will reduce unnecessary modified diet & thickener use but more importantly improve residents’ quality of life.
Email us here for more information about your residents receiving this type of service.