Overview of Australia's aged care system

Aged care services offer a variety of care in different settings to older Australians. Home support and home care services provide care for people living in the community and could include assistance with housework and property maintenance, cooking and providing assistive equipment (such as walking frames or installing handrails at home). Residential aged care services provide care and accommodation in residential facilities, both for permanent and short-term respite stays. At 30 June 2020, around 335,900 Australians were using residential aged care (permanent or respite), home care or transition care services. In 2019–20 nearly 840,000 people received assistance under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), and some of them may have also accessed residential aged care (AIHW 2020).

Australian Government-subsidised aged care services are generally provided on the basis of need—there are no age restrictions for eligibility (except for the CHSP). Aged care services are managed by government, not-for-profit and private organisations. At 30 June 2020 there were 845 organisations providing residential aged care through 2,722 services, 920 organisations providing home care services, and 1,452 organisations were funded to provide home support during 2019–20 through 3,724 outlets in Australia (AIHW 2020). Note that some organisations may have been providing more than one type of care services and support. For more information on aged care in Australia, visit GEN Aged Care data.

In 2019–20 about 1,100 men and 930 women with younger onset dementia (that is, people with dementia aged under 65 ) were living in a residential aged care facility. For some young people with dementia, residential aged care may be their setting of choice. However, younger people are generally considered to be better served by other services (such as specialist disability accommodation provided through the NDIS) (see Box 10.1). The Australian Government has committed to minimising the need for younger people to live in aged care facilities, through the Younger People in Residential Aged Care Strategy 2020–25 (DSS 2020).

In addition to aged care services, people with dementia may access a range of health services, including: allied health services, medical specialists and specialised dementia services. See Overview of dementia support services and initiatives for information on dementia specific services available to Australians with dementia and their carers and GP and specialist services overview for information on the use of community-based GP and specialist health care services by people with dementia.

Refer to the Aged care data tables for the underlying data presented in these pages. 

Box 10.1: Support services for people with younger onset dementia (aged under 65)

People with younger onset dementia may be eligible for support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) (NDIA 2019) and financial support through the Disability Support Pension (Services Australia 2021), in addition to aged care services. Data are not currently available on the number of people with younger-onset dementia accessing the NDIS or receiving the Disability Support Pension.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The NDIS provides support for people aged under 65 who have a significant, ongoing disability. Through this scheme young people are provided with funding in order for them to access a range of support services and programs, including supports that assist people with daily personal activities (such as gardening, household chores and meal preparation), making home modifications to suit their needs, programs that enable and encourage participation in work or social activities, and funding towards therapeutic services.

Disability Support Pension

The Disability Support Pension provides financial help for people with an on-going physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that prevents that person from working (such as people with younger-onset dementia). This pension is available to people aged 16 and over (who are less than pension age), with eligibility and payment amounts based on the person’s condition and level of impairment, and their assessable income and assets.

Dementia care workforce

Ensuring the aged care workforce is appropriately trained to care for people with dementia is essential to providing high quality care.

The Aged Care Act 1997 does not mandate educational qualifications for those working in the aged care sector, however it does outline that approved residential aged care providers have a duty to ensure staff have the right qualifications and skills to provide care appropriate to the needs of people in care (Royal Commission 2019). 

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Royal Commission) has recommended implementing mandatory dementia care training for workers engaged in residential aged care and in care in the community, after finding that staff often lack skills and resources to appropriately care for people with dementia. This is especially relevant for people with dementia who experience behavioural and psychological symptoms, and require skilled staff to help them effectively manage symptoms (Royal Commission 2021).

The Australian Government is implementing workforce reforms in accordance with the Aged Care Workforce Strategy, and has made recent investments to improve dementia-specific workforce training through the Dementia Training Program.

Due to a lack of national data, this page does not present statistics on the formal workforce caring for people with dementia. For information on unpaid carers, see Carers of people with dementia.

Need more information?

If you require more information about aged care services available for people with dementia, refer to: