The conversations of life

How many years do you expect to need ‘aged care’? It could be longer than you think


A new UK study has shown on average older men now spend 2.4 years and women three years with substantial care needs – and most of us will live in the community.

The Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies Collaboration interviewed nearly 8,000 people aged over 65 and compared the results with a similar study in the same area 20 years ago.

Participants were divided into four categories: high dependency (24-h care), medium dependency (daily care), low dependency (less than daily), and independent.

The researchers found there were major increases in the number of years lived with low dependency needs for both men and women – an increase of 1 to 2.4 years and 1.8 to 3.1 years respectively.

The conclusion? While fewer people in the UK will be living in aged care homes with medium and high dependency needs, over 350,000 extra people will need care at regular stages or round the clock by 2025.

Living longer but not always healthier

It’s a similar situation here. Around 250,000 people were using aged care services – including residential care and home care – in Australia last year up from 189,000 in 2006 – that’s a 31 per cent increase over the last decade. People also spend an average of three years in residential care.

The good news is that we are much more prepared to meet this demand than the UK.

The Federal Government has just launched a new study into the costs of providing residential aged care to older Australians – the first time they have been studied since the 1990s and after they cut $1.8 billion from aged care funding last year.

It’s a positive move, but the Government also needs to consider how much of this future care will be at home.

Families provide the majority of unpaid care for elderly people living at home – and this can have both a financial and an emotional impact. When our own mother was first diagnosed with dementia, Annie took two years away from work to care for her at home.

Let’s hope more support for families will be on the cards too.

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.

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