Australia is “data rich but information poor” about what’s really going on in residential aged care, according to an aged care researcher.
The change in profiles of aged care residents is a research area of Professor Andrew Georgiou from Macquarie University’s Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research.
Australia is currently not monitoring changes in aged care well enough, but an increased use of electronic health and client records could improve the situation, he said.
“We need to put figures on what’s actually going on in aged care to get an informed discussion on policy,” Professor Georgiou told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“The department gets lots of statistics from its regulatory and funding requirements, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare provides summary reports, but they don’t provide information about individuals and type of care they receive.”
He said aged care facilities recorded this information, which would provide a much richer picture.
“We hope that coupled with greater use of electronic patient records and My Health records, they will provide both and an overview and information on individual experiences and care as well.”
An evidence base
Professor Georgiou was a co-author of a study of changes in the profile of Australians in 77 residential aged care facilities across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory between 2011 and 2014.
The study, which was published in the Australian Health Review in November 2016, examined data on demographics and utilisation of these services against the background of government aged care policy changes, expenditure and the growth in aged care facilities since 1995.
The researchers found “surprisingly few statistical summaries in the peer-reviewed literature on the profile of Australian aged care residents or trends in service utilisation.”
The research concluded there was a clear demographic profile and consistent pattern of utilisation of aged care facilities.
“The most significant finding of the study is that one-third of permanent residents had resided in an aged care facility for more than three years,” the report said.
- Median age at admission over the three-year period remained constant at 86 years;
- Statistically significant decreases in separations to home;
- 1.35 per cent increase in low care admissions;
- Widowed females made up the majority (44.75 per cent) of permanent residents, were the oldest and had the longest lengths of stay;
- One-third of permanent residents had resided in aged care for three years or longer;
- Approximately 30 per cent of residents were born overseas;
- Aboriginal residents made up less than 1 per cent of the studied population, were younger and had shorter stays than non-Aboriginal residents.
Professor Georgiou said the data collected and reviewed in the final report of this research could be compared with that of other aged care facilities.
“Services can look at it, compare themselves to the findings and encourage others to do so, then have the discussion about if and why they may be different,” he said.
“This research puts the evidence out there. It will help policymakers and the industry to move policy discussions by monitoring the data carefully.”
View the research here.
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