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Explore people's care needs in aged care

This page has been updated with the latest data available at 30 June 2017. You can download data directly from the visualisations by clicking in the graph area and using the 'download' menu.

On this page you can explore more information, facts and figures about the care need ratings of people living in permanent residential aged care. You can filter the information in the graphs below to look at different data sub-sets. 

High care need ratings are increasing over time

Since 2009, the proportion of people with a high care need has progressively increased on every ACFI care domain, except for a reduction in the number of people rated 'high' for complex health care in 2017. It is possible that the increase is due to a larger proportion of people entering residential aged care at a later age than in previous years (see Admissions into aged care).

In each year since 2009, cognition and behaviour had the largest proportion of people with needs rated as ‘high’, however the complex health care  domain had the biggest increase in high care need ratings over this time—from 13% in 2009 to 61% in 2016, before dropping to 55% in 2017. This drop reflects changes in the rating method for complex health care in January 2017. You can learn more about these changes from the Department of Health.

A stacked bar graph shows a time series of care need ratings across the three care domains for people living in permanent residential care. The proportion of people with a high care need rating has increased for all domains between 2009 and 2017. Inversely, the proportion of people who reported nil or low care needs has decreased over time for each domain.

Care need ratings for cognition and behaviour decrease with age

Cognition and behaviour was the only care domain where ratings decreased with age. Among those aged 50–59 years, 72% had a high care need rating and this fell to 55% among those aged 100 years or older. In comparison, high care need ratings increased with age for activities of daily living and complex health care.

As people grow older they are more likely to require some level of care in activities of daily living. Less than 1% of people aged 90 or older were rated with a ‘nil’ care need for activities of daily living, whereas a higher proportion of people of the same age had a ‘nil’ care need rating on the cognition and behaviour and complex health care domains.

A stacked bar graph shows the relationship between age and the level of care need rating for people living in permanent residential care across each care domain. For both the activities of daily living and complex health care domains, the proportion of people who had a high care need rating increased with older age. Cognition and behaviour was the only domain for which the proportion of people with a high care need rating decreased with age.

Dementia increases high care need ratings

Cognition and behaviour  had the highest proportion of people in permanent residential aged care rated with a 'high' care need (63%). This is likely to be because of the high proportion of people in permanent residential aged with dementia. While 80% of people with dementia were assessed with a high rating on the cognition and behaviour care domain, only 44% of people without dementia had a high care need rating for this domain. High care need ratings were also higher among people with dementia for activities of daily living (63% compared with 50%).  People with and without dementia had similar ratings for complex health care, with 55% of both groups having a high care need rating.

A stacked bar graph shows the care need ratings of people in permanent residential care by care domain and whether they have been diagnosed with dementia. People who had been diagnosed with dementia were more likely to have higher care needs across all domains, and were twice as likely (80%) to have a high care need for cognition and behaviour compared to those without dementia (44%).

Cognition and behaviour is not always the area with largest high care need

Nationally, the cognition and behaviour domain has the largest proportion of people assessed with a high care need rating (63%), followed by activities of daily living (57%) and complex health care (55%). This was the same for both men and women. However, this pattern is not consistent across all states and territories, particularly in the smaller states as can be seen in the graph below:

  • Most of the larger populated states (New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia) follow the national pattern.

  • The Northern Territory had the most even split of high care ratings across the care domains, ranging from 56% for activities of daily living to 60% for complex health care.

  • Complex health care had the largest high care need rating in the states with smaller populations (other than the Australian Capital Territory).
     

High care need ratings highest amongst women

Women have a slightly higher proportion of high care need ratings than men for activities of daily living (58% compared with 53%) and complex health care (57% compared with 52%), while cognition and behaviour was the same for men and women (63% each). Using the drop-down menu options in the graph below you can uncover some more interactions between state, sex, age and Indigenous status, such as:

  • Women had a larger proportion of high care need ratings than men on each care domain in every age group.

  • There were no clear patterns in ratings between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in care compared with non-Indigenous people.

A stacked bar graph shows the proportion of people in permanent residential care with a high, medium, low or nil care need rating across the three care domains. The graph allows this to be filtered by a number of characteristics, such as sex, age group, Indigenous status and state.

Care needs highest amongst people born in non-English speaking countries and people with a preferred language other than English

Some demographic factors, and combinations of factors, are more likely to lend themselves to a high care need rating than others. In particular:

  • High care needs were most prominent across all care domains amongst those who were born in non-English speaking countries and those who preferred speaking a language other than English. They were highest on the cognition and behaviour domain. Three quarters (74%) of people in permanent residential care who preferred to speak a language other than English had a high care need for cognition and behaviour, compared with 62% of English speakers. Those who were born in non-English speaking countries had higher care need ratings across all care domains than people born in other English-speaking countries and people born in Australia.
  • Women generally had a higher proportion of high care need ratings than men within language preference groups, country of birth groups, and age groups.


The graph below displays care need ratings against a number of demographic variables including state, sex, age, country of birth, and language.

A stacked bar graph shows the proportion of people in permanent residential care with a high, medium, low or nil care need rating across the three care domains. The graph allows this to be filtered by sex, age group, preferred language, country of birth and state.