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Trends in Aged Care Services: some implications

Commission research paper

This paper was released on 25 September 2008.

  • Key points
  • Media release
  • Contents

Over the next 40 years, population ageing and growing diversity among older people - in terms of their care needs, preferences and affluence - are expected to pose a number of challenges to Australia's aged care system. These include:

  • a significant increase in demand - those aged over 85 tend to be the main users of aged care services, and their numbers are expected to increase at least four-fold by 2047
  • the changing pattern of disease among the aged is expected to increase the proportion of frail older people with more complex care needs
  • an increased preference for independent living arrangements supported by community care, and a desire for greater autonomy and choice in aged care services generally
  • many of the aged having higher levels of income and wealth with which to leverage services, although significant numbers - over three quarters of those of age pension age - will continue to be eligible for the age pension
  • needing to secure a significant expansion in the aged care workforce at a time of 'aged induced' tightening of the labour market, accentuated by competing demands from the acute care sector.

The policy implications of these prospective challenges are broad ranging and complex. This study highlights several areas where further analysis seems called for to aid the development of an improved framework for aged care, including:

  • assessing the potential for unbundling residential care (that is, accommodation, everyday living and personal care costs) to better reflect the underlying costs of these services and enable better targeting of public subsides to those most in need
  • examining the current dual gate-keeping system and the scope to improve it by dispensing with the planning and allocation system (while retaining accreditation) and relying on the entitlement for aged care services established by aged care assessment teams
  • considering the feasibility of introducing 'consumer-centred' care arrangements to enhance the potential for older people to influence the nature and scope of the services they receive
  • looking at ways of improving responsiveness in aged care education and training arrangements and extending scopes of practice to overcome inefficiencies and inflexibilities in the workforce.

Aged Care: Challenges Posed by Increasing Demand and Growing Diversity

The Australian community places significant importance on older people having access to high quality and cost effective aged care services. This is reflected in current institutional and regulatory arrangements, which give considerable weight to achieving equity of access and a minimum acceptable standard of service quality.

The Commission research paper, Trends in Aged Care Services: some implications builds on earlier work by the Commission in the areas of demographic change, health and aged care. The study analyses major trends in both demand for aged care services and the supply of these services. It also explores the implications for the future structure and mix of aged care services, the aged care workforce, and the capacity of the sector to lift its productivity growth.

It notes that the ageing of Australia's population will call for the provision of aged care services to much larger numbers of people over the next few decades. Further, these services will need to meet the challenges posed by the increasing diversity of older people in terms of their care needs, preferences and affluence.

Commissioner Mike Woods observed that 'these emerging challenges on the demand-side of the aged care market are creating pressure for the supply-side to be more flexible, responsive and efficient'.

Background information

Mike Woods (Commissioner) 02 6240 3204

Leonora Nicol (Media, Publications and Web) 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443

  • Preliminaries
    Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Contents, Acknowledgments and Abbreviations
  • Overview
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
    1.1 Why a study of trends in aged care?
    1.2 Some key terms
    1.3 Guide to the study
  • Chapter 2 A profile of aged care
    2.1 Aged care represents a 'social product system'
    2.2 A profile of older Australians requiring care
    2.3 Types of care
    2.4 Profile of aged care providers
    2.5 The role of government in aged care
    2.6 Recent trends in aged care
  • Chapter 3 Future demand for aged care services
    3.1 The effects of population ageing
    3.2 Growing diversity among older Australians
    3.3 Availability of aged care services
  • Chapter 4 Equity, efficiency and sustainability
    4.1 The roles of equity, efficiency and sustainability
    4.2 Recent initiatives to improve equity, efficiency and sustainability
    4.3 Some emerging challenges
  • Chapter 5 Quality and choice
    5.1 The role of quality and choice
    5.2 Recent initiatives to improve quality and choice
    5.3 Demand for greater quality and choice
    5.4 Mechanisms to promote consumer centred care
    5.5 Some issues for consideration
  • Chapter 6 Workforce: emerging issues
    6.1 The aged care workforce - a snapshot
    6.2 Formal paid workforce
    6.3 Informal carers
    6.4 Volunteers
  • Chapter 7 Productivity in aged care
    7.1 Why is productivity growth important?
    7.2 Measuring productivity
    7.3 Performance of the residential aged care sector
    7.4 Some emerging opportunities for improving productivity
  • Appendix A - Recent initiatives to improve the financing and provision of aged care services
  • References

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