This report presents statistics on the Australian residential aged care system over the period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.

Major changes in appraisal of resident care needs and health conditions

From 20 March 2008 a new method of appraising the care needs of permanent residents was introduced. The Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) replaced the Resident Classification Scale (RCS). The ACFI is designed to measure a resident's need for care rather than the care provided. It underpins a new set of funding arrangements in residential aged care designed to reflect the costs associated with such care.

This report includes data about the 47,338 residents who had received an ACFI appraisal by 30 June 2008. Over three-quarters of these residents (76%) were classified as high care.

For the first time, this report includes data about the health conditions of permanent residents with an ACFI appraisal. Almost half (48%) had a recorded diagnosis of dementia. Other recorded health conditions affecting residents included circulatory diseases (14,000 residents) and diseases of the musculoskeletal and connective tissue (8,200 residents).

Aged care provision continues to increase

At 30 June 2008, there were 175,472 residential aged care places, an increase of 5,401 compared with 30 June 2007. The current planning target for residential aged care provision is 88 places per 1,000 persons aged 70 years and over. Although it is intended that this will be achieved by June 2011, the target was close to being achieved by June 2008 when there were 87.7 operational places per 1,000 persons (up from 86.9 at 30 June 2007).

Including other aged care programs such as aged care packages in the community, the corresponding ratio of available places and packages increased from 109.5 to 111.9 during the 12-month period to 30 June 2008, relative to the overall planning target of 113 places and packages per 1,000 persons aged 70 or over. Current planning has set this target to also be achieved by June 2011.

Average occupancy in residential aged care from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 was 93.5% compared to 94.3% in the previous year.

Average length of stay continues to increase

There were 105,030 admissions to residential aged care between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2008, of which 53,737 were for permanent care. During the same period there were 53,819 separations from permanent care, with the most common reason for separation being death (88%).

On average, the length of time people spend in residential aged care is increasing. The average completed length of stay for permanent residents who left residential aged care during 2007-08 was 147.8 weeks compared with 131.3 weeks in 1998-99 and 145.9 weeks in 2006-07. Length of stay was longer for women (170.4 weeks) than for men (109.8 weeks).

Respite care is an important component of residential service provision

While at any one time the number of respite residents is small, almost half (49%) of admissions to residential aged care during 2007-08 were for respite care. Respite care is usually of short duration with an average length of stay of 3.3 weeks. The majority of respite residents (77%) return to the community, but 16% continue in residential care (either permanent care or additional respite care).