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The majority of older Australians who are admitted to hospital are able to return to their home in the community after they are discharged, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Movement between hospital and residential aged care 2008-09, focuses on people aged 65 and over and includes the first analysis of the use of hospitals by people already in residential care.

AIHW spokesperson Dr Pamela Kinnear said that about 90% of the 1.1 million hospitalisations a year for older Australians were for people who lived at home in the community. Nearly all the rest were for those living in residential aged care.

'On leaving hospital, 83% of patients returned to their home in the community and 8% were discharged back to their home in residential care,' Dr Kinnear said.

'Just over 4% of patients were admitted into residential aged care or transition care when they left hospital. The remaining 5% of hospitalisations ended with the patient's death.'

Dr Kinnear said factors such as age and having dementia increased the likelihood of a person entering care after being discharged.

'People were more likely to be admitted into residential aged care than return to the community if they were in hospital for longer, were diagnosed with dementia or stroke, were older, had an unplanned hospital admission, or were in palliative care before being discharged,' Dr Kinnear said.

Aged care residents entered hospital for different reasons than older people living in the community.

'Respiratory conditions were the leading cause of admission for permanent aged care residents, while circulatory conditions were most common for people admitted from the community,' Dr Kinnear said.

Aged care residents were twice as likely as other older Australians to be admitted to hospital because of a fall (10% versus 5%).

There were just over 120,000 admissions into residential aged care nationally in 2008-09, including transfers between aged care facilities. Almost one-third of all these admissions were from hospital.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 20 September 2013

Further information: Dr Pamela Kinnear, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob. 0421 600 377   

Full publication: Movement between hospital and residential aged care 2008-09