The number of residential aged care places in Australia and the ratio of places to people aged 70 years and over both increased in 2002-03, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Residential Aged Care in Australia 2002-03: a statistical overview states that there were 151,181 residential aged care places at the end of the 2002-03 financial year, up from 146,268 places the previous year.
This meant that there were 82.8 places for each 1,000 people aged 70 years and over, compared to 81.6 a year earlier.
Over the same period, the provision of Community Aged Care Packages by the Australian Government increased from 26,425 to 27,881.
Ann Peut, Head of AIHW's Ageing and Aged Care Unit said, 'The provision ratio of places and packages combined continues to increase, as has been the trend in recent years, with the ratio up from 96.4 at 30 June 2002 to 98.1 at 30 June 2003.'
Ms Peut said dependency levels in residential aged care continued to rise.
'In the five years to 30 June 2003, the proportion of permanent residents with a high care level of dependency increased from 58% to 64%, while those classified as low care fell from 42% to 36%.
'During 2002-03, 61% of new permanent admissions were high care residents,' she said.
There were 96,645 admissions to residential aged care in that year, of which 51,200 were for permanent care, and 45,445 for respite care.
On 30 June 2003, respite residents made up just under 2% of all residents, however respite care accounted for some 47% of the total admissions to residential aged care in the year to that date.
'The difference in the percentages is explained by the short-term nature of respite care,' Ms Peut said.
'While a large number of respite residents were admitted over the course of the 12 month period, there are relatively few respite residents at any one point in time.'
Also in 2002-2003, there were 92,801 separations from residential aged care, of which 47,467 were permanent residents and 45,334 were separations of respite residents.
The total number of people actually in residential aged care (as opposed to the number of available places) at 30 June 2003 was 142,846, comprising 140,297 permanent residents and 2,549 respite residents.