In 2010-11, 116,481 people died in Australia aged at least 65. This report examines these people's use of aged care services in the 8 years before they died. Three-quarters of this group used an aged care service during the 12 months before they died. While some used aged care services only in the year before death, others had accessed services over several years.

The analysis uses the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Pathways in Aged Care extended database. This database covers the Aged Care Assessment Program (ACAP) and use of seven aged care service programs from 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2011, as well as deaths. The service programs included are residential aged care (RAC, both permanent and respite), three aged care package programs, the Transition Care Program, Home and Community Care (HACC) and Veterans' Home Care (VHC). ACAP data are not included in the current analysis as person-level assessment data were only available nationally from 2006-07.

People who died in 2010-11 aged at least 65

  • The average age at death of these people was 83.4; 48% were male.
  • On average, the women were older than the men when they died (85.2 versus 81.5).
  • Overall, 80% had used aged care in the 8 years before death. People who died aged 85 and older were much more likely to have used care before death than those who died at younger ages (91% versus 57% of people aged 65-74 at death).
  • Three-fifths were current clients of aged care programs when they died.

Timing of program use

  • Almost half (47%) began using aged care more than 4 years before death.
  • In all age groups, there was increased take-up of care in the last 6 months of life. This trend was much more marked for people who died aged 65 to 74.
  • The older a person was when they died, the more likely they were to have been accessing a care program at the time of death.
  • Around 10% stopped using aged care in the last quarter before death.

Patterns of program use

  • People used a diversity of care pathways, with use of aged care programs varying considerably, both in terms of when care was accessed and the care programs used.
  • Around 80% of people who used a program began by using HACC or VHC. Permanent RAC was the first service used for about half of the remainder.
  • Just over one-third of program users accessed only HACC or VHC, while 1 in 10 used only permanent RAC in the 8 years before they died.
  • Almost half (46%) of program clients used combinations of community care and permanent and/or respite RAC.
  • Permanent RAC was the last aged care service used by 54% of program users, and 43% of those who died in total.
  • People who used aged care commonly had several episodes of care. On average, VHC and permanent RAC provided their clients with the longest care (length of care of 3.1 and 2.7 years, respectively, combining all episodes of use).