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Admissions into aged care

The choice of aged care services is an important and sensitive decision for many older Australians. There are different services available to support people’s varying needs. When people decide to enter aged care, an individual assessment is made so they get the support they need. People are counted as an ‘entry’ to aged care when they start using a service, and if a person leaves care (excluding short periods of leave), they are counted again if they return. This section reports on such entries to residential and home care.

In 2015–16:
  • Around 213,800 people began using aged care services.

  • Just over 2 in 3 people who entered aged care moved into residential care—this was roughly split between permanent (72,100) and respite care (73,300).

  • Of everyone entering aged care, around 1 in 5 started using home care, and 1 in 10 started using transition care.

  • The time between approval and entry to permanent residential aged care has increased by 87% since 2013–14, from 45 days to 84 days. This is likely due to changes in 2014 that removed expiry dates from most assessments. 

  • The time between approval and entry to residential care (84 days) was longer than for home care (73 days), although this varied between states and territories (see graph below).

  • There was a 12% reduction in assessments over the last year (again, this is likely due to the removal of expiry dates from most assessments).

How do people enter aged care?

Once a person decides they would like to use aged care services, they arrange an assessment to determine what care would be best for them. A member of their local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) does the assessment looking at their physical, medical, psychological and social needs. After the assessment, the ACAT lets the person know the services they are approved for, and the reasons why. They can choose whether or not they would like to follow the recommendations.

The time between an ACAT approval and starting an aged care service is a rough measure of service access, as low numbers of available places increase waiting times. However, other factors also influence the time between approval and entry into a service. For example, some people:

  • wish to remain at home for as long as possible, going into approved care at a later date or not at all

  •  delay entry into 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.

You can explore more about entries to aged care services in the next section, including initial assessments and how entries vary by program, state/territory and demographics.