A new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) examines older people's use of seven government-funded aged care programs, from initial program assessment to death.
The report, Pathways through aged care services: a first look, found that people vary considerably in what care programs they use and when, following assessment.
'The aged care sector within Australia is very complex, with a wide range of services available to older people in need of assistance,' said Dr Phil Anderson, Head of the AIHW's Data Linkage Unit.
The report looked at data from a group of 77,000 people who had an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) assessment in 2003-04 and who had not previously used services which required assessment for access.
Over half of the group had, however, previously used services provided through the Home and Community Care or Veterans' Home Care programs, neither of which require an ACAT assessment.
The report found that within two years of assessment, over 10% of people had accessed a Community Aged Care Package (CACP), and just over 40% had been admitted to permanent residential care at least once.
'Interestingly, the report found that an assessment did not always result in the use of a program,' Dr Anderson said.
Almost 25% of people had not accessed any aged care programs within two years of their initial assessment.
'And, for some people, the ACAT assessments seemed to be a way of getting information about community care programs that did not require an assessment for access,' Dr Anderson said.
'For example, the Home and Community Care and Veterans' Home Care programs, which don't need an ACAT assessment to access, were used by just over one-fifth of the group after their assessment-and before programs that require assessment,' he said.
The report also shows the use of care programs increases over time, with the move to residential care being particularly noticeable.
Around 38% of people still alive two years after assessment were in permanent residential aged care, compared with 20% who were in residential aged care 6 months after assessment.
Some people use several care programs at a time to meet their care needs. Nearly 8% of those who were still alive six months after assessment were receiving a CACP, and nearly 30% of these were also using services from other programs.