The time between an older person’s approval and entry into residential aged care continues to rise while the sector’s occupancy rates drop further, new government figures show.

The Federal Government spent $13.2 billion on residential aged care in 2018-19, up from $12.4 billion the previous year, the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2020 show.

During 2018-19, there were 236,213 older people in permanent residential aged care including 60,657 people who entered residential care during the year, according to the report released on Thursday.

There were 175,482 completed Aged Care Assessment Team assessments, with each costing $711.79 on average, and 98,153 approvals for residential aged care in 2018-19.

The median time between an ACAT approval and the person’s subsequent entry into residential aged care was 152 days (five months) in 2018-19, up from 121 days in 2017-18 and 105 days in 2016-17.

For the year, 42 per cent of older people entered residential aged care within three months of their ACAT approval and 59 per cent entered within nine months.

The report noted the time between a person’s ACAT approval and their entry into aged care can be influenced by a range of service and person-related factors including:

  • availability of places
  • preference to remain at home for as long as possible
  • a decision to reject an offer due to the cost or location.
Tim Hicks

At 30 June 2019, there were 213,397 operational residential aged care places, which is 6,255 more than the same time in 2018.

But occupancy hit another 10-year low at 89.4 per cent.

It is the first time occupancy has fallen below 90 per cent after hitting the previous lowest of 90.3 per cent in 2017-18 (read more here).

Acting chief advocate of aged care provider peak Leading Age Services Australia, Tim Hicks said the data reinforced existing evidence that residential aged care was facing mounting pressure.

“Occupancy has been declining for some time, adding to the financial pressures created by the repeated failure of indexation to match increases in the cost of care, and making it harder for providers to meet increased regulatory and consumer expectations,” Mr Hicks told Australian Ageing Agenda.

He said an urgent response was required from the Government.

Three-year accreditation status falls

In 2018-19, fewer residential services have or received three-year accreditation, which is the longest available, than the previous year.

During the year, 85 per cent of the 1,269 re-accredited services were given three-year status, down from 93 per cent of re-accredited services the previous year.

As at 30 June 2019, 92 per cent of the 2,690 residential aged care services had three-year accreditation down from 97 per cent of services at the same time in 2018.

Conversely, complaints were up in 2019.

There were 7,828 in-scope complaints received during the year, 73 per cent of which were for permanent and respite residential care services (5,748 complaints).

That equates to just over 30 complaints per 1,000 aged care residents, which is up from 23 and 20 complaints in 2017-18 and 2016-17 respectively.

Patricia Sparrow

Fellow aged care provider peak Aged and Community Services said the findings highlighted the need for urgent reform to better support aged care recipients.

The ambitious reforms the sector is hoping the royal commission will deliver can’t come soon enough, said ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow.

“Waiting lists and times are clearly unacceptable and some providers, in particular those in regional and remote areas, are struggling to survive with costs to deliver care outstripping funding,” Ms Sparrow said.

She said structural problems and funding challenges were hindering the industry’s ability to deliver the care that older people wanted.

Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors Julie Collins said the Government must do better to ensure older Australians got the quality aged care services they deserved, when they needed it.

Access the report here.

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2 Comments

  1. Just to clarify, the intended resident waiting time is by choice not because there aren’t places available.
    The federal policy relating to new ACAT recipients and how long they can stay in hospital is being ignored. For example in Canberra there are potential nursing home residents staying in hospital for many months and this is at a ten fold cost to the government.
    Policy should be adhered to so that others seeking an ACAT can get into hospital and from there to a facility.
    Why is it able to be ignored in some areas?

  2. My research with older people suggests the The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has had an impact on occupancy rates in aged care homes. The effect of only hearing horror stories is making some older people terrified of moving into an aged care home. An older woman told me recently she would prefer to kill herself than “go into one of those hellholes”.
    It is important to recognise the Royal Commission is hearing testimonies from a biased sample (i.e. older people who have experienced abuse, neglect, negligence in an aged care home). The good aged care homes that treat older people with kindness and respect need to stand up and be counted. The public needs to know they exist.

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