More admitted to permanent residential aged care from hospital than from community

More older people are newly admitted to permanent residential aged care from hospitals than from the community, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Movement from hospital to residential aged care, shows that in 2001-02 among new admissions for permanent care, 21,800 people aged 65 and over came from hospitals, while 16,600 came from the community.

'What happens between hospitals and residential aged care has long been of great community interest,' said report co-author Phil Anderson.

'Now, through some innovative statistical work, we have been able to provide some initial answers, although certainly not all the answers,' he said.

Every year in Australia almost one in 10 of the million or so hospital discharges for older people are for people who then go into or return to residential aged care.

The report shows that of all people aged 65 year and over, only a small proportion (just over 3%) leave hospital to be admitted into residential aged care and nearly 6% already lived in residential aged care. People were more likely to move from hospital to residential aged care for the first time if they:

  • had a long stay in hospital (median of 24 days for final hospital episode compared with 4 days for those returning home)
  • had dementia
  • were older, widowed or single
  • received palliative or maintenance care prior to hospital discharge.

The most common diagnosis for people moving into permanent aged care was 'awaiting admission elsewhere' (21%).

'The wait could have several causes, including the time needed to enable patients to be assessed for care, and for them and their families to decide on a move to residential aged care, and to then find suitable places and make the final choice,' Mr Anderson said.

In contrast to the situation for permanent aged care, for residential respite care nearly four times as many people were admitted from the community as from hospitals (32,000 admissions compared with 8,600).

Those admitted from hospital were often using the respite care as a transition to returning home, with just 1% transferring to permanent care within 12 weeks, and over half having returned home with one quarter remaining in respite care after 12 weeks.

Canberra, 26 November 2008

Further information: Dr Phil Anderson, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1125, mob. 0417 881 017

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.