Alarming figures on aged care supply and demand

A report by a leading economics firm shows that supply will fall well short of demand for aged care places in the future under current planning policy.

 Above: Alzheimer’s Australia CEO, Glenn Rees.

By Stephen Easton

A new report released today forecasts that demand for residential and community aged care services in Australia will greatly outstrip supply over the next 40 years, driven mainly by the increasing prevalence of dementia and an outdated planning policy.

Based on current government policy, the shortfall could be as many as 279,000 aged care places nationwide by 2050, according to the report, which took into account places in high and low care as well as CACP, EACH and EACH-D packages.  

Caring Places: Planning for aged care and dementia 2010-2050 Volume 2 follows the first volume that came out last August, and was produced by Access Economics on behalf of Alzheimer’s Australia to highlight what the organisation sees as a looming crisis, which according to Alzheimer’s Australia CEO, Glenn Rees, is being largely ignored.

“I think the media reaction to the report and reaction elsewhere suggest that the magnitude of the growth that’s required in aged care places hasn’t been fully realised,” Mr Rees said. “The second issue, which I think is still not discussed enough in aged care debates, is the weakness of community care.” 

“The major importance of the report from our perspective is that it really supports the view that dementia is the core business of aged care, and reforms need to focus on dementia among the many other issues. 

“The report also supports the need for fundamental reform, not just to increase the supply of places but to change the product mix to provide more community care options. The importance of starting now is that the longer you leave it, the worse the problem will be.”

The economics firm compared projected supply under the current planning framework with two other growth scenarios, one based on policy recommendations made by the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission (NHHRC) in 2009, and the other on a previous Access Economics report from 2009 that estimated 7,400 people would be diagnosed with dementia every week by 2050.

In its 2009 report, the NHHRC recommended changing the current policy, which allocates 113 places for every 1000 people aged 70 and over, to instead respond to population growth among those aged 85 and over, and to offer more places per capita.

According to the report’s authors, “both supply scenarios are expected to strongly correlate with future increases in demand for aged care services”, and Glenn Rees hopes the Productivity Commission (PC) will take heed when preparing the final version of their own report, Caring for Older Australians, due later this year and widely expected to be the basis for significant reform to the sector.

“The National Aged Care Alliance had a two-day meeting on the PC report, where we met with the minister [for health and ageing] and [PC deputy chairman] Mike Woods,” he said. “Interestingly there was full agreement from all stakeholders that the focus on dementia in the PC report was missing; it was a view shared by many others, not just Alzheimer’s Australia.

“We’ll be arguing strongly that the PC in its final report should provide for a supplement to recognise the extra costs in dementia care, [but] if the PC want to make a real start in reform for consumers, they should start by expanding community care.”

Acting CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia, Pat Sparrow, has also urged the PC to take heed of the figures contained in the report, which she said provides further evidence that reform must be a top priority for the government.  

“Successive reports and inquiries have identified shortcomings in the planning and provision of residential and community aged care services,” Ms Sparrow said. “The Access Economics report reinforces the need for action now to ensure a sustainable aged care sector designed to meet the growing and increasingly complex demands and needs of older Australians.”

Tags: access-economics, aged, aged-care, ageing, alzheimers-australia, caring-places,

1 thought on “Alarming figures on aged care supply and demand

  1. I think the real answer is to support families in the care of their older family members. In-home and out of home respite care; more overnight care and crisis care. All community aged care packages only offer a minimum of services and if we really want to support older Australians, and especially those with dementia in their own homes then all packages of care need to be more flexible.
    Thanks.

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