Palliative care in residential aged care

The Australian Government subsidises residential aged care services for older Australians whose care needs are such that they can no longer remain in their own homes. Residential aged care services provide accommodation and services to people who require ongoing health and nursing care due to chronic impairments and a reduced degree of independence in activities of daily living. They provide nursing, supervision or other types of personal care required by the residents.

Residential aged care services face particular difficulties in administering palliative care, because permanent residents often have dementia and/or communication difficulties and complex care needs (AIHW 2017). In addition, there is a high burden of chronic disease and comorbidity in the residential aged care population (Hillen, Vitry & Caughey 2017).

Palliative Care provided in a residential aged care service is regulated under the Aged Care Act 1997, within the Quality of Care Principles. Within the schedule of specified care and services, an Approved Provider is responsible for providing access to a qualified practitioner from a palliative care team, and the establishment of a palliative care program including monitoring and managing any side effects for any resident that needs it.

The AIHW’s National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse contains information gathered via a number of data collections. Data collected from the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI), which is used to determine the level of Australian Government subsidies for permanent residents, has been used for the analyses presented here. Permanent residents who have been appraised as requiring palliative care under the ACFI are included in the ‘palliative care’ group described in this section.

It should be noted that the decrease in residential aged care permanent admission and residents appraised as requiring palliative care is most likely related to changes in the application of the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) for palliative care in recent years.

Data downloads

Palliative care in residential aged care tables (521KB XLS)

Palliative care in residential aged care section (240KB)

The information in this section was last updated in October 2017.

Key points

  • There were about 235,100 permanent residents in Australia in 2015–16 with completed ACFI appraisals, and nearly 1 in 40 of these residents (6,316) had an ACFI appraisal indicating the need for palliative care.
  • The proportion of ACFI appraisals resulting in palliative care within aged care facilities increases with the age of the resident.
  • The population rate of appraised need for palliative care among permanent residents was highest in Inner regional areas (49.1 per 100,000 population) followed by Outer regional (25.4) and Major cities (21.6).
  • Around one-quarter (26.2%) of permanent residents receiving palliative care had been diagnosed with cancer, with the types of cancer most often recorded being lung cancer (19.3%) and colorectal (bowel) cancer (12.9%).


AIHW 2017. Residential aged care and Home care 2014–15. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 27 April 2017,

Hillen JB, Vitry A & Caughey GE 2017. Disease burden, comorbidity and geriatric syndromes in the Australian aged care population. Australasian Journal of Ageing 36(2):E14-E9.