Australia’s aged care system aims to ensure older people receive support and quality care when they need it. Residential Aged Care facilities are one component of the aged care system and are available across Australia.
Residential care is for frail, older people whose overall care support needs cannot be adequately met in the general community. There is no real definitive minimum age for residential aged care. Residential aged care is an option for people who, because of age-related reasons cannot continue living independently. In blunt terms, they are aged people, whose health has deteriorated to the stage where they cannot continue living at home, even with extra support.
Residential care is delivered in a residential facility in which the person is also provided with accommodation, including furnishings, furniture, and equipment for the provision of that care and accommodation. As well as providing accommodation, residential care facilities provide:
- Assistance with personal care, such as bathing, showering, dressing, grooming, toileting, and mobility;
- Meals and refreshments;
- Nursing care under the supervision of a registered nurse;
- Assistance with medications;
- Access to many additional services, such as physiotherapy or podiatry;
- A range of social activities;
- A laundry service, cleaning services, and maintenance of buildings and grounds;
- Staff to provide help, including in emergency situations;
- Basic furnishings, including carpets, curtains, chairs, beds and bed linen, bath towels, face washers, soap and toilet paper; and
- Palliative care.
The Australian government accredits, regulates, and subsidises residential aged care facilities. Most residential aged care homes receive subsidies from the Commonwealth government to assist in providing care and support to older people. These homes must meet a set of standards set by the government, regarding care, lifestyle, safety, and building conditions. Residential aged care homes that do not attract government subsidies may be subject to different arrangements.
Facilities can vary in style, size, and age. Some give priority to certain groups, such as war veterans, Aboriginal people, or people from non-English speaking backgrounds. In addition, several aged care providers have policies about embracing the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community within their facilities. Some facilities provide a secure area and/or a special program for people suffering with dementia.
The not-for-profit sector is the biggest provider of residential aged care services. Nearly two out of three beds are in facilities operated by either religious, charitable, or community-based organisations. Private organisations account for the remaining beds.
Before a person can enter a Residential Aged Care Facility, they will first need an assessment with an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). ACAT assessments are funded by the Australian Government to provide free assessments to determine eligibility for Australian Government subsidised aged care services.
The number of total admissions into residential aged care has risen steadily in recent years. There are around 200,000 residential aged care places across Australia, provided by about 2,700 residential aged care facilities.
The typical resident in a residential aged care facility is female; nearly 70% of residents are women. The majority of people in residential aged care (nearly 80%) are older than 80, and one in every three is older than 90. The average age in residential aged care is 84.5. A negligible number of people are aged less than 65. Two out of every three residents are widowed. The majority of people in permanent residential aged care own or held a mortgage on their usual residence, and nearly 90% of people in permanent residential aged care are recipients of a full or part Australian Government aged pension.
The average total length of stay in permanent residential aged care, during 2013-14, was 34.5 months (146 weeks). Around one third of residents pass away within the first year, whilst nearly half of them stay in care for between one and five years. Around 20% of residents stayed in residential aged care for five years or more. It is important to understand, they do not die because they entered residential care; this is a common myth. Their health would have declined wherever they were being cared for. In residential care, they are supported during the palliative phase by qualified and experienced staff.