There has been a substantial trend toward 'ageing in place' in the Australian residential aged care system, according to a study of former hostels in the aged care system released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The rise follows the introduction of the Commonwealth Aged Care Act in 1997, which brought together hostels and nursing homes in one system.
'Ageing in place', i.e. allowing low-care residents of former hostels to remain in the facility as their dependency increased, was one of the specific objectives of the reforms. Under the previous system such residents were required to move to a nursing home.
The study, Ageing in Place, gives a 'before and after' picture of the consequences of the 1997 legislative reforms. It shows that 23% of residents of former hostels are now classified as 'high care'. While some were admitted as high care residents, two-thirds have remained in the same facility or 'aged in place'.
Head of the AIHW's Welfare Division, Dr Diane Gibson, said ageing in place 'had the advantage of allowing continuity of care to residents and their families-there's no need to negotiate a move to a new service, or adjust to new surroundings, new staff and a new set of fellow-residents.'
Dr Gibson said the report revealed other strong evidence that ageing in place had occurred since the 1997 reforms.
'For example there was a dramatic reduction in the proportion of hostel residents leaving to transfer to another aged care service-from 42.2% in 1994-95 down to 16.3% in 2000-01.
'Over the same period, the proportion of residents who died in former hostels rather than being discharged to another type of service before dying had increased from about 30% in 1994-95 to 55% in 2000-01.
Dr Gibson said that a further consequence of ageing in place had been a rise in dependency in the residential aged care sector as a whole.
'The trend during the early and mid-1990s toward a decreasing proportion of nursing home or high care beds was reversed with the introduction of the 1997 reforms.
'Since 1997 the proportion of high dependency residents in the residential aged care system has increased from 56% to 63%.'