More aged care residents need higher levels of care than ever before, with 70% of permanent residents requiring high level care compared to 58% a decade ago, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'While 75% of residents are aged over 80, and 54% are aged over 85, there is a small proportion (about 4%) who are aged under 65,' said Ann Peut, Head of the AIHW's Ageing and Aged Care Unit.
'Among these younger aged care residents - there are just over 6,600 of them - a high proportion are classified as high-care (77%), even when compared to the very old residents (95 and older) of whom about 75% require high levels of care,' she said.
The report, Residential Aged Care in Australia 2006-07: a statistical overview, showed that the average complete length of stay for permanent residents has increased from 131 weeks a decade ago to 146 weeks (167 weeks for women and 110 weeks for men) in 2006-07.
The allocation of new places in 2006-07 was 4,415 high-care residential places and 2,110 low- care residential places.
The significant jump in the allocation of high-care places in 2006-07 (42% of the total allocation of places and packages compared to a range of 19-32% over the last five years) was in line with increasing dependency levels.
The number of operational residential aged care places increased to 170,071 (at 30 June 2007) - an increase of 3,780 places compared with the previous year. In total there were 153,425 permanent aged care residents at 30 June 2007.
'The provision ratio, that is the number of residential places per 1,000 persons aged 70 years and over, remained close to the previous year's provision at around 87 places. This is just shy of the current planning target ratio of 88 places to be achieved by 2011,' Ms Peut said.
In addition to providing care for permanent residents, aged care facilities also provide important short-term respite care for older people living in the community.
During 2006-07 there were 50,987 respite admissions. The average length of stay was 3.3 weeks.