Residential aged care facilities - Dependency levels continue to rise

The first report on residential aged care facilities shows a continuing trend to higher dependency levels among residents. At the end of June 1998, nearly 60% of residents were in the high-care categories (categories 1 to 4), while less than 5% were in the lowest level of care category (category 8).

The new residential aged care system, which merges nursing homes and hostels into a single residential care system, was introduced in October 1997. Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia 1998: A Statistical Overview, to be released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Friday, provides data on 6 months of the new system.

Head of the Aged Care Unit, Dr Diane Gibson, said that in the years preceding the introduction of the single system, dependency levels were rising in both nursing homes and hostels but an increasing proportion of people - up from 43% in 1994 to 47% in 1997 - were in hostels. One of the reasons for implementing the single classification system was the perception that a significant proportion of hostel residents were actually as dependent as those in nursing homes.

Data in the report refer to residents admitted both before and after the restructure of the system. Dr Gibson said The dependency profile of new permanent residents gives a useful indication of the most recent trends. Data from the new system suggest we can expect a continuing shift toward higher levels of care.

Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia 1998: A Statistical Overview also shows that:

  • The number of residential aged care places increased by 859 between June 1997 and June 1998, to 139,917.
  • At 30 June 1998 almost half (48%) of residential aged care facilities residents were aged 85 and over.
  • Overall, about 2% of residential places were used for respite care, but the figure under-represents the importance of this care. Respite care accounted for around 47% of admissions during the first 6 months of 1998.
  • The average length of stay for those leaving a residential aged care facility (through death or to go elsewhere) was 128 weeks (145 for women and 99 for men).


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