New report highlights Australians’ changing use of aged care services

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) looks at the use of aged care services and the take-up of care following assessment by people aged 65 and over between 2002-03 and 2010-11.

The report, Patterns in use of aged care: 2002-03 to 2010-11, links datasets about Australia's major aged care programs, allowing analysis of the patterns of these programs' use by the people who need them.

'Combining information about programs in this way gives us richer insights than a 'snapshot' of  single programs can provide, and helps policy makers better understand and support the changing needs of older people,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Pamela Kinnear.

The report shows that over the study period, the number of people aged 65 and over using aged care services in a year rose by more than one-third, from 642,000 to 874,000.

'The growth in client numbers was greater than the growth in the population, which means it did not just result from the growing numbers of very old people. Rather, much of the increase was due to greater use of community care programs,' Dr Kinnear said.

Over the nine-year period, on a standard day roughly 1 in 6 people aged 65 and older were using aged care services, with around 5% living in residential aged care (RAC).

As expected, service use is increasingly common with increasing age, with the oldest age groups more likely to be using services on a particular day. On 30 September 2010, 58% of people aged 85 and over were accessing care services. Almost one quarter of this very old age group were in permanent RAC.

Between 2003-04 and 2010-11, the proportion of people using an aged care service in the 12 months before admission into permanent RAC rose. In particular, the use of community care in conjunction with respite RAC and/or the Transition Care Program (TCP) before admission into permanent RAC rose.

The report also shows that more people are using aged care services in their last year of life. In particular, 70% of older people who died in 2003-04 used a service in their last year of life, compared to almost 75% of people who died in 2010-11. In 2010-11, just over two thirds of the women and half of the men aged 85 and over who died used permanent RAC in their last year of life.

In order to access RAC, care packages and transition care, an approval must be obtained through the Aged Care Assessment Program (ACAP). However, approval to use a program does not necessarily mean that the service will be used.

'For example, even among people with both a recommendation and approval to live in residential care, only 64% went into permanent care within 12 months, while 18% did not access any aged care programs,' Dr Kinnear said.

'Whether a person takes up approved care depends on a range of factors, and varies with the characteristics, health profile and personal circumstances of the individual involved.'

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, 6 August 2014

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