Over half of the 187,300 Australians living in residential aged care during 2015 had at least five to eight long-term health conditions and nearly half had dementia, according to new data released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The statistics are among a range of findings to emerge from the ABS’ 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC).
The report states Australia’s growing ageing population presents challenges to service provision, especially within the aged care sector.
In 2015, over two-thirds (68.1%) of people living in residential aged care were women, reflecting the fact they live longer than men, and around two-thirds (65.6%) of all women living in residential aged care were aged over 85.
Examining long-term health conditions, the survey found almost all (99.7%) of people living in aged care had at least one long-term health condition ranging from skin conditions such as eczema to osteoporosis.
Over half had at least five to eight long-term health conditions, while one in five experienced nine or more conditions.
There was little variation between men and women living in residential aged care when it came to the number of long-term health conditions but women were more likely than men to have arthritis, osteoporosis and anxiety disorders.
In contrast, men were twice as likely to have had a head injury or acquired brain injury as well as a stroke.
For disability, in 2015 most people living in residential aged care with a disability had a physical restriction (88.5%) such as chronic pain or incomplete use of their arms and legs, while 73.1% had a psychosocial restriction including memory problems and social or behavioural difficulties.
When it came to dementia, a leading cause of death in Australia, the 2015 SDAC found almost half, or 93,400 people, living in residential aged care had dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, with the proportion of people experiencing the conditions increasing with age.
During the survey period, people living in residential aged care with dementia were twice as likely to have nine or more impairments, such as impairment of mood or emotion, speech, loss of sight, hallucinations or loss of consciousness, suggesting care needs associated with dementia may be greater.
The survey also looked into the use of aids and equipment in residential aged care to help people with disability undertake everyday activities such as dressing, eating, and moving around.
Results showed aids and equipment were more common among people with dementia, with sufferers of the condition more likely to use them for activities such as managing incontinence, toileting, and eating.
The report says a growing demand for aged care services, including from people’s homes, and the rise of dementia means there will be an ongoing need for residential aged care support.
It suggests understanding the characteristics of people living in residential aged care currently will help to improve services and better prepare for future needs.