An Introduction: Aged Care Residential (Nursing Home) Accommodation
Moving into Aged Care residential accommodation represents a very significant decision for any individual, and often their families. Although there are support services which can assist this will often be a complex transition for both individuals and their carers. In common with the rest of the website, we try and address these issues in very general terms in the following web pages so that you are better prepared for a discussion with either Centrelink or professionals financial advisors.
Funding for residential aged care is a Federal Government responsibility and consequently standard rules and processes apply throughout Australia. Providing comprehensive care in an aged care home is a complex and very expensive activity, most of the funding for which is provided by the Federal Government. As a result, access to these services is dependent upon individual's meeting qualifying criteria set by the Government, and the government will look to individuals to assist in providing some portion of the costs, if they have the capacity.
While we have all seen reports about the increasing cost of providing aged care services, driven by an ageing population and health issues, what is not normally appreciated, is that the great bulk of Australian's aged 65+ either continue to care for themselves in their own accommodation, independent of government assistance, or do so with some element of home care.
For most people, moving into aged care accommodation is not an option which they actively seek, but one which is driven by health issues. The table below illustrates that only a relatively small proportion of Australian will actually move into residential care, although this may increase over time with changes in longevity and the associated increasing impact of dementia.
Also, the average entry age to both residential aged care and home care might also surprise - the 2018–19 Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act 1997 indicates that:
- The average age on admission to permanent residential aged care was 82.3 years for men and 84.6 years for women.
- For entry to a home care package the average was 80.5 years for men and 81.1 years for women
Consequently, aged care residential accommodation is not the inevitable consequence of ageing, and domestic home care within a private dwelling is much more likely, except at very advanced ages. It is very important to appreciate, as we mention elsewhere, that the average length of completed length of stay in residential aged care was 34.4 months in 2018-19, less than 3 years, reflecting the fact that significant health issues are normally the main driver for entry into a home.
That being said, there are significant numbers of Australians in permanent residential aged care accommodation, even below the age of 65 - although the latter is probably an unfortunate reflection of systemic problems around where to place younger individuals who need significant care outside of a hospital environment. The chart below shows the number of individuals using residential care on June 30, 2020 split by age and gender - with women dominating the residency numbers above age 75.
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