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New data on residential aged care facilities shows a continuing trend to higher dependency levels among residents, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia 1998-1999 shows that at the end of June 1999, 61% of residents were classified as 'high care', and 39% 'low care', with less than 3% in the lowest level of care category. In the previous year, 58% of residents were 'high care', with 42% of residents in the low care category with 5% needing the lowest level of care.

Head of the AIHW's aged care unit, Diane Gibson, said the dependency profile of new permanent residents gave a useful indication of the most recent trends.
'Prior to the introduction of the new system, dependency levels were rising among both nursing home and hostel residents. In recent years, available residential care places have been targeted to a more dependent group of people,' Dr Gibson said.

'During this time, we've also seen a 27% increase in the supply of community care packages aimed at helping people-who might otherwise be eligible for low levels of residential care-to remain in their homes.'

There were 2,496 residential places and 4,275 community care packages allocated in 1999. Of these, 36% of residential places and 38% of community care packages were allocated to providers in regional, rural and remote locations. During 2000-2001, 7,889 residential aged care places and 6,483 community care packages will be made available.

Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia 1998-1999: A Statistical Overview also shows that:

  • The number of residential aged care places increased by 734 between June 1998 and June 1999, to 140,651. The number of community aged care packages also increased from 10,046 to 13,753 over the same period.
  • At 30 June 1999 almost half (49%) of residential aged care facilities residents across Australia were aged 85 and over. Residents in the Northern Territory and in rural and remote areas are the exception; 25% of residents in the Northern Territory are aged 85 years and over, and 35% in rural and remote centres.
  • Overall, about 2% of residential places were used for respite care, but this figure under-represents the importance of this care. Respite care accounted for 47% of 86,064 admissions during 1998-99.
  • The average length of stay for those leaving a residential aged care facility (through death or to go elsewhere) was 131 weeks (149 for women and 100 for men).

2 June 2000

Further information: Dr Diane Gibson, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1190.
For media copies of the report:
Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.
Availability: Check the AIHW Publications Catalogue for availability.