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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 2019. 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.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

People’s care needs are assessed using the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) when they first enter permanent residential aged care, and are reassessed throughout their stay.

Since 2009, the proportion of people living in permanent residential aged care whose most recent ACFI (as at 30 June) had a high care need rating for activities of daily living and cognition and behaviour has increased consistently.

In each year since 2009, cognition and behaviour had the largest proportion of people with needs rated as ‘high’ in their most recent ACFI, 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 decreasing to 52% in 2019. This decrease reflects changes in the rating method for complex health care introduced in January 2017. You can learn more about these changes from the  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 2019. Inversely, the proportion of people who reported nil or low care needs has decreased over time for each domain.

High care need ratings for people entering permanent aged care are also increasing. Since 2009, the proportion of people assessed as having a high care need at admission into residential care has steadily increased for each domain. Activities of daily living had the largest increase in high care need ratings over this time, from 29% in 2009 to just over half (53%) of people entering permanent residential aged care in 2019.

Accordingly, the proportion of people with a ‘nil’ or ‘low’ care need rating has decreased over this period, with the largest decrease in nil ratings for complex health care (21% in 2009 to 0.7% in 2019) and the largest decrease in low ratings in activities of daily living (36% in 2009 to 13% in 2019).

A stacked bar graph shows a time series of care need ratings at first assessment for people entering permanent residential care. The proportion of people with a high care need rating at first assessment has increased for all domains between 2009 and 2019. Inversely, the proportion of people who had nil or low care needs at first assessment has decreased over time for each domain.

Care need ratings for cognition and behaviour decrease with age

In general, high care needs rating for the Cognition and behaviour care domain decreases with age. The highest proportion of people living in permanent residential aged care with a high care need rating for this care domain was those people aged 50–59 years (73%)—this proportion decreased consistently for every age group above that.
As people age they are more likely to need some level of care with activities of daily living and complex health care. Less than 1% of people aged 80 and over had a ‘nil’ care need for activities of daily living and complex health care.

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

At 30 June 2019, cognition and behaviour had the highest proportion of people rated with a 'high' care need (64%). This is likely to be related to the high proportion of people living in permanent residential aged care with dementia. While 80% of people with dementia were assessed with a high rating on the cognition and behaviour care domain, only 46% of people without dementia had a high care need rating for this care domain. High care need ratings were also higher among people with dementia for activities of daily living (65% compared with 55% of people without dementia). People with and without dementia had similar ratings for complex health care (50% and 53%, respectively).

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 for activities of daily living, and were twice as likely (80%) to have a high care need for cognition and behaviour compared to those without dementia (46%).

High care need ratings varied across states and territories

At 30 June 2019, nationally, cognition and behaviour had the largest proportion of people assessed with a high care need rating (64%), followed by activities of daily living (60%) and complex health care (52%), however there was some variation across states and territories.

  • The Northern Territory had the most even split of high care ratings across the care domains, ranging from 54% for activities of daily living to 51% for cognition and behaviour to 46% for complex health care.
  • Complex health care had the largest high care need rating in South Australia (58%).

High care need ratings highest amongst women

Overall, women had a slightly higher proportion of high care need ratings than men for activities of daily living (62% compared with 56%) and complex health care (53% compared with 48%), while cognition and behaviour was the same for men and women (64%).

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 higher for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

People born in non-English speaking countries and those who prefer speaking a language other than English had higher levels of high care need ratings across the three care domains. They were highest on the cognition and behaviour domain. Three-quarters (74%) of people living in permanent residential aged care at 30 June 2019, who preferred to speak a language other than English, had a high care need for cognition and behaviour, compared with 63% of people who preferred to speak English.

Those who were born in non-English speaking countries had higher care need ratings across the three care domains than both 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.

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.