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There are many and varied paths through Australia’s aged care system according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Pathways in Aged Care: program use after assessment, looks at aged care program use by a group of 105,000 people who had a completed assessment by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) in 2003–04. One-third of this cohort had not previously used aged care services.

The report examines assessment patterns, care pathways, time to entry to permanent residential aged care and time to death over the 2 year period following their first ACAT assessment in 2003–04.

‘In Australia, there is a wide range of services available to help older people in need of assistance,’ said Rosemary Karmel of the AIHW’s Data Linkage Unit.

‘This report presents groundbreaking analysis on the large variety of pathways people may take through aged care programs.

‘The report shows that for many people, their first contact with the aged care system is through an ACAT assessment.

‘For example, just over 40% of the cohort with no previous use of aged care programs accessed Home and Community Care or Veteran’s Home Care services following an ACAT assessment, even though no ACAT assessment is required to access these programs.

‘This suggests that the ACAT assessments seemed to be a way of getting information about community care programs.’

Assessments do not always result in program use. For example, 25% of the cohort who had not previously accessed care did not access any care programs within 2 years of their ACAT assessment.

The report shows that, as expected, people’s use of care programs increases over time, and more moved into residential aged care. Among the group who had not used aged care services before their assessment, 34% of people alive 2 years after assessment were in permanent residential aged care, compared with 17% just 3 months after assessment.

Also amongst this particular group, some people use several care programs at a time to meet their care needs. Just over 6% of those who were alive 6 months after assessment were receiving a Community Aged Care Package, and nearly 16% of these were also using services from other programs such as Home and Community Care and residential respite care.

Canberra, 2 February 2011

Further information: Rosemary Karmel, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1200, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Pathways in Aged Care: program use after assessment