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The revolting truth about the food served in aged care facilities.

A Four Corners investigation into aged care facilities has uncovered elderly people being given meals most of us wouldn’t even dream of giving our pets.

The ABC asked people involved with the aged care industry to write to them about what is right and wrong about the current system. They received four thousand responses – with many indicating food was their biggest worry.

From photos, it’s easy to see why.

The ABC report in a Melbourne facility, dinner was a chunk of store-bought garlic bread, a hotdog and tomato sauce.

In a Perth home, residents get party pies – yeah, the ones you have at kids birthday parties.

And even those are better than the ‘texture-modified’ meals – these are just blobs of food, pureed or minced for residents who have trouble swallowing.

Aged care worker Nicole* described one ‘minced moist’ meal as “truly disgusting”.

She told ABC her stomach had toughened up since working in aged care.

“I once saw a sign in the kitchen saying ‘essence of chicken’ in a big bucket … it is a disgrace. Ads showing ‘nutritionally balanced’ food are blatant lies.”

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Dietician Cherie Hugo led research into more than 800 aged care facilities around the country and found homes were on average spending just $6.08 a day on food per resident.

This is $2 less than is spent on Australian prisoners.

Dr Hugo was worried as this average spend had dropped by 31 cents per person per day in only a year – but the money spent on nutrition supplements had risen by 50 cents.

Health Services Union national secretary Gerard Hayes told ABC the low food budgets were “a disgrace”.

“We have people that may not have a lot to look forward to in their life, when they could look forward to a warm meal during the evening,” he said.

“It would be a small pleasure, but one that unfortunately in some areas is not achievable.”

Dr Hugo told ABC she was continually emphasising to aged care managers just how important quality food is.

It is used as a barometer of the quality of the care of the whole organisation, she said.

The Four Corners investigation also uncovered horrifying abuse allegations. Many staff told the show that continence pads were rationed to only three per day per resident, and often kept under lock and key in order to save money.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a royal commission into the aged care sector following an “alarming and disturbing” spike in elder abuse and poor standards.

He said the royal commission would look at issues in the sector, including the quality of residential and home aged care.

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members, and this investigation shows Australia must do better.

Watch Part One of the Four Corners investigation into aged care here. Part Two airs on September 24th.

*Name has been changed.

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