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Admissions into aged care

Australia’s aged care system offers a range of services to support people’s varying personal and health circumstances.


Last updated: 22 June 2021.

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Contents

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For a downloadable summary of the information in this topic, view the Admissions into aged care factsheet

Related information can be found on other GEN topic pages

The aged care system offers a continuum of care under three main types of service:
  • Home support (Commonwealth Home Support Programme), which provides entry-level services focused on supporting individuals to undertake tasks of daily living to enable them to be more independent at home and in the community.
  • Home care (Home Care Packages Program), which is a more structured, more comprehensive package of home-based support, provided over four levels.
  • Residential aged care, which provides support and accommodation for people who have been assessed as needing higher levels of care than can be provided in the home, and the option for 24-hour nursing care. Residential care is provided on either a permanent, or a temporary (respite) basis.
There are also several types of flexible care available that extend across the spectrum from home support to residential aged care:
  • Transition care, which provides short-term care to restore independent living after a hospital stay
  • Short-term restorative care, which expands on transition care to include anyone whose capacity to live independently is at risk
  • Multi-purpose services, which offer aged care alongside health services in Regional and remote areas
  • Innovative Care Programme, which includes a range of programs to support flexible ways of providing care to target population groups
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program, which provides culturally-appropriate aged care at home and in the community.
For more information on aged care services in Australia see the Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act, or visit the Department of Health website.

Aged care admissions refer to the number of entries into an aged care service over a specified period, rather than the number of people who entered the service. People are counted as an ‘admission’ to aged care when they start using a service, and are counted again if they return (excluding short periods of leave). A person’s first admission to an aged care service is counted only once, although they will have multiple first admissions should they use a range of aged care services (e.g. one first admission to home care, and one first admission to transition care).

To access aged care services, a person must undergo an assessment to determine their eligibility and what care would be best for them. For most aged care programs, a person’s access to government-subsidised aged care is determined by their assessed need, not their age.

My Aged Care is a contact centre and website which serves as the starting point to access government-subsidised aged care services. The website provides a variety of information on care types, eligibility for aged care, and services in the local area. Following an initial screening through My Aged Care, people are followed-up with either a home support assessment (conducted by Regional Assessment Services; RAS) or a comprehensive assessment (conducted by an Aged Care Assessment Team; ACAT).

In a comprehensive assessment, a member of the local ACAT assesses an individual’s physical, medical, psychological and social needs. After the assessment, the ACAT advises the person of the services that they are approved for (e.g. a Home Care Package or permanent residential aged care) and the reasons for that approval. The person can then choose to begin using an aged care service at a time that is convenient to them. A number of factors may influence this decision, for example, some people may:
  • wish to remain at home for as long as possible, going into approved residential care at a later date or not at all,
  • delay entry to care due to personal circumstances, such as selling their home,
  • choose informal care, where family, friends or the community provide support,
  • reject an offer due to the cost or location.

Aged care admissions in 2019–20

The Australian Government uses Aged Care Planning Regions (ACPRs) to plan aged care services across Australia.

In 2019–20, there were nearly 247,000 admissions to aged care services in Australia (nearly 70,000 to permanent residential care, nearly 83,000 to respite residential care, over 70,000 to home care, and over 24,000 to transition care).

A map shows the number of total and first admissions to aged care services across Australia by Aged Care Planning Region (ACPR). The ACPR with the highest number of total admissions to permanent residential care was Southern Metro, Victoria.

You can learn more about ACPRs on the Department of Health website.

To find detailed information on the people using aged care in different ACPRs and Primary Health Networks (PHNs), please visit the My aged care region dedicated page on GEN.

 

Aged care admissions by age

Although the majority of aged care admissions are for older people, admissions for younger people also occur.

In 2019–20:
  • Just over 1 in 3 (38%) admissions to home care were for people aged 85 and over, compared with more than half (53%) of admissions to permanent residential care.
  • Over 5,000 admissions to aged care services were for people aged under 65 (representing 2% of total admissions), the largest proportion of which were to respite residential care
  • The largest proportion of first admissions to residential aged care were people aged 85–89 (26% of first admissions to both respite and permanent residential aged care).
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A bar graph shows the number of admissions to aged care services grouped by admission type, care type and age group. Over half (53%) of admissions to permanent residential care were for people aged 85 and over, compared with almost 2 in 5 (38%) admissions to home care. The largest proportion of admissions to residential aged care were people aged 85–89.

Aged care admissions by sex

There are more admissions to aged care for women than men across all program types.

In 2019–20:
  • 3 in 5 (60%) admissions to aged care services were for women.
  • The largest difference in admissions for men and women was to home care—62% of admissions were for women and 38% of admissions were for men.
  • Admissions to the other care types were also more commonly for women—almost 60% women and 40% men.
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A bar graph shows the number of admissions to aged care services grouped by admission type, care type and sex. The majority of admissions to aged care services were for women. The largest difference between admissions for men and women was in home care.

Aged care admissions by age and sex

The age profiles of men and women entering aged care services differ. Women tend to enter aged care at a later age than men.

In 2019–20:
  • Women were more likely to enter permanent residential aged care for the first time at an older age (58% of first admissions for women were aged 85 and over, compared with 48% for men).
  • A slightly greater proportion of admissions for people aged under 65 to permanent residential aged care were for men (3.1% of admissions) than for women (1.7% of admissions).
  • The age profiles of admissions to home care and transition care differed least between men and women.
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A butterfly chart shows the proportion of admissions to aged care services grouped by admission type, care type, sex and age group. Women were more likely to enter permanent residential aged care for the first time at an older age than men, whereas age profiles for men and women were more similar for admissions to home care and transition care.

Aged care admissions over time

More people in Australia are now entering aged care services than 10 years ago, which partly reflects the growing older population (the population aged 65 and over has grown by 36% in this time). See also COVID-19 and aged care admissions.

Trends over the decade from 2010–11 indicate that:

  • The number of admissions to aged care services increased by 40% (from around 176,000 to over 247,000).
  • The number of admissions to permanent residential aged care rose by less than 1%, whereas admissions for respite residential care increased by 34%.
  • The largest increase in admissions was in home care, which saw a 163% increase—from around 27,000 to over 70,000 admissions.
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A line graph shows the number of admissions to aged care services grouped by admission type, age group, sex and care type over time. Trends over the decade from 2010–11 to 2019–20 indicate that admissions increased for all care types, with the largest increase in admissions to home care (from 26,689 to 70,302).

Home care admissions over time

Home care provides care to individuals based on their assessed care needs. Home care packages are available at 4 levels, from Level 1 (suitable for basic care needs) through to Level 4 (suitable for high-level care needs). See also COVID-19 and aged care admissions

In 2019–20:
  • A third (33%) of home care admissions were at Level 1, almost half (45%) were at Level 2, and 15% and 7% were at Level 3 and Level 4, respectively.
Trends over the past six years indicate that:
  • The proportion of home care admissions at Level 1 has increased (from around 3% to 33%) and the proportion of admissions at Level 4 has decreased (from 20% to just over 7%)—reflecting recent increases in the availability of Level 1 packages. 
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A stacked bar chart shows the number of admissions to home care grouped by admission type and home care level over time. In 2019–20, the greatest proportion of home care admissions were at Level 2, followed by Level 1, Level 3 and Level 4. Trends over the six years from 2014–15 to 2019–20 indicate that the proportion of admissions at Level 1 has increase, which the proportion of admissions at Level 4 has decreased.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians admissions to aged care

The target population for aged care (that is, all people aged 65 years and over and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50–64) acknowledges the younger age structure and differing care needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia. As a result, Indigenous Australians are eligible to receive aged care services at an earlier age than non-Indigenous people. In addition, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program provides culturally-appropriate care for Indigenous Australians in locations close to their communities, although these data are not presented here.

You can also learn more about Indigenous Australians in aged care by viewing the Indigenous Australians Dashboard, or learn about the health and welfare of Indigenous Australians on the AIHW website.

In 2019–20:
  • Indigenous Australians accounted for 1.4% of admissions to aged care services (permanent residential aged care, respite residential care, home care and transition care).
  • Admissions to aged care for Indigenous Australians more commonly occurred at younger ages than for non-Indigenous Australians—68% of admissions to permanent residential aged care, 69% of admissions to respite residential care, 83% of admissions to home care and 76% of admissions to transition care by Indigenous Australians were aged under 80.
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A butterfly chart shows the proportion of admissions to aged care services grouped by admission type, care type, Indigenous status and age group. Admissions for Indigenous Australians more commonly occurred at younger ages than for non-Indigenous Australians.

Admissions for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Many older Australians, including those living in residential aged care, were born overseas, speak a variety of languages, may not speak English fluently or have different religious or cultural practices. These can influence how people access and engage with aged care services and the support they require. Due to data availability, this section focuses on country of birth and preferred language as measures of people’s cultural and linguistic diversity.  

In 2019–20:
  • 11% of admissions to aged care services (residential care, home care, and transition care) were for people who preferred to speak a language other than English and were born outside of Australia.
  • 15% of admissions to home care and around 10% of admissions to respite residential care, permanent residential care and transition care were for people who preferred to speak a language other than English.
  • Across these aged care services, 22% of admissions were for people born in non-English-speaking countries
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Two horizontal bar graphs show the proportion of admissions to aged care services grouped by admission type, care type, country of birth and preferred language. Approximately 28% of admissions to home care were for people who were born in a non-English-speaking country, and 15% of admissions were for people who preferred to speak a language other than English.

Remoteness

The proportion of admissions to aged care services for people in the target population (that is, all people aged 65 and over and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50–64) differs between remoteness areas. The location of services may mean that people living in remote areas need to move to less remote areas to access higher-level aged care services.

In 2019–20:
  • Across all aged care services, rates of admissions tended to be highest in large and medium rural towns.
  • The rate of admissions to permanent residential aged care was highest in more densely populated areas (MM 1–4) and became progressively lower from small rural towns to remote and very remote areas (MM 5–7).
  • The rate of admissions to home care was highest in large rural towns (MM 3).
  • Transition care was not available in small rural towns and remote areas (MM 5–7), and admission rates were highest in regional centres and large rural towns (MM 2–3).
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The Modified Monash Model (MMM) is one of several classifications for defining whether a location is a city, rural, remote or very remote. People living in more remote areas can find it harder to get medical or other help or support services. Understanding the MMM classification can inform planning decisions by enabling a better understanding of where current and future demand for services is more likely and how this relates to the supply of services and workforce across regions.

The model measures remoteness and population size on a scale of Modified Monash (MM) category MM 1 to MM 7. MM 1 is a metropolitan area, including Australia’s major cities, and MM 7 is a very remote community, such as Longreach.

From January 2020, Department of Health programs transitioned to use the MMM classification. You can learn more about the MMM on the Department of Health’s website.
A line graph shows the number of admissions per 1,000 people in the target population grouped by admission type, care type, remoteness and age group. Rates of admission for all care types tended to be highest in large and medium rural towns.

States and territories

The rate of admissions to aged care varies across Australia.

In 2019–20:
  • Victoria and South Australia had the highest rates of admissions to permanent residential aged care (17.3 and 16.9 per 1,000 of the target population, respectively)—and the Northern Territory had the lowest rate (5.1 per 1,000 of the target population).
  • South Australia had the highest rate of admissions to respite residential care (27.9 per 1,000 of the target population)—30% higher than the next highest state, New South Wales (21.4 per 1,000 of the target population).
  • New South Wales and Victoria had the highest rates of admissions to home care services (18.3 and 16.9 per 1,000 of the target population, respectively)—and the Northern Territory had the lowest rate (8.1 per 1,000 of the target population).
  • Rates of admissions to transition care varied less, with the highest in South Australia (6.8 per 1,000 of the target population) and the lowest in the Australian Capital Territory (3.4 per 1,000).
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A bar graph shows the rate and proportion of admissions in the target population grouped by admission type, care type and state and territory. Victoria and South Australia had the highest rates of admissions to permanent residential aged care, while New South Wales and Victoria had the highest rates of admissions to home care services.

Explore admissions into aged care

Use the interactive table below to explore the number of people using aged care services by care type, admission type, age group, sex, Indigenous status, preferred language, country of birth and geography (Aged Care Planning Regions).

If you are interested in accessing a confidentialised data set that includes selected information about admissions into residential care, home care, and transition care in Australia by state and territory and Aged Care Planning Regions (ACPRs), please see the relevant Confidentialised Unit Record File available on GEN.

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A table shows the number of admissions to aged care services in Australia by admission type, care type, age group, sex, Indigenous status, preferred language, country of birth and geography (Aged Care Planning Region).

COVID-19 and aged care admissions

Australia has faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 can be more serious for people who are vulnerable, including older Australians. This heightened risk prompted a specific response in the aged care sector.

The number of people entering aged care services is likely to have been impacted by COVID-19. In some cases, people may have chosen not to enter care due to the risks of virus transmission, choosing instead to seek assistance from formal community care services or to receive additional informal support from family, friends or neighbours. Additionally, older people who are at greater risk of health complications arising from COVID-19 may have chosen to avoid using aged care where possible. The data presented here are to 30 June 2020, spanning the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions in Australia. The extent of pandemic-related impacts will be clearer in future data releases.

For further information related to older Australians and COVID-19, including access to advice and support resources, see the Australian Government’s My Aged Care website.

 

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