Dementia is estimated to be the leading cause of burden of disease in Australians aged 75 years and over. Residents living in aged care facilities with a diagnosis of dementia can be identified using data collected with the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI). The ACFI is a resource allocation tool that was implemented in March 2008 to appraise the care needs of permanent residents in Australian Government subsidised aged care. The tool is used to determine the resident’s care classification from which Australian Government care subsidy funding is calculated. Prior to the implementation of the ACFI there were only imprecise means of identifying residents with dementia.

This report, presenting data for 2008–09, is the first to examine the characteristics and care requirements of Australian aged care residents with a diagnosis of dementia. It will be useful for informing the allocation of future aged care funding and the development of aged care facilities to meet the needs of the ageing Australian population.

Key findings

  • In 2008–09, over half (53%) of the permanent residents (more than 104,400) living in Australian Government subsidised aged care facilities who were appraised with an ACFI had a diagnosis of dementia.
  • Around 87% (91,300) of residents with a diagnosis of dementia were appraised using the ACFI as high-level care compared with 68% (63,800) of ‘other residents’.
  • Almost 56% of residents with dementia had high needs for assistance in the behaviour care domain compared with approximately 17% of other residents. Almost 50% of residents with dementia required the highest level of care for activities of daily living (ADLs) compared with 27% of other residents.
  • Females comprised 70% of residents with a diagnosis of dementia reflecting their overall proportion in residential care. Approximately 79% of residents with dementia were aged 80 years and over, reflecting that the great majority of people with dementia are older people.
  • Compared with other Australians, more Indigenous aged care residents with a diagnosis of dementia were represented in the younger age groups with 16% of Indigenous residents with dementia being aged less than 65 years, compared with only 2% of other Australian residents with dementia.
  • Alzheimer disease was the most common type of diagnosed dementia, affecting 76% of residents with dementia. Vascular dementia accounted for 10% of diagnosed dementia, and Dementia in other diseases (for example; Parkinson disease and Huntington disease) accounted for 4% of dementia diagnoses. Other dementia accounted for 8% and Mixed dementia accounted for 2% of the total.
  • The average annual Australian Government subsidy (excluding supplements) paid in 2008–09 for a permanent resident with a diagnosis of dementia was $38,100. This was more than for ‘other residents’ whose average annual subsidy (excluding supplements) was $31,600.
  • Generally, residents with diagnosed dementia who were appraised as high-level care prior to separation stayed longer in aged care than ‘other residents’ appraised as high-level care. The reverse was evident in low-level care.