Meeting the expectations of Australia's ageing population

Wolters Kluwer Health Australia Pty Ltd
Monday, 01 August, 2022

As our ageing population continues to increase, its growing needs and expectations for quality aged care services will have far-reaching impacts on the healthcare system and particularly service providers.

Life expectancy in Australia is about 82.5 years on average, while the percentage of people aged 65 years and over is projected to increase from 15% (2017) to 22% (2057) and 25% by 2097.

On the positive side, many older people are in good health and continue to do paid and volunteer work well beyond retirement age, live independently and contribute socially and economically to our community.

However, there’s no doubt our ageing population has numerous challenges, including:

  • Financial — increased costs of healthcare and government pensions.
  • Social — eg social isolation where people move away after retirement, and increased pressure on younger family members.
  • Pressure on carers — according to Carers Australia, the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index shows carers have the lowest wellbeing of any of the groups measured.
  • Labour market pressures and the economy — a higher aged population can mean a shrinking labour pool and fewer people paying taxes. According to the Productivity Commission, this reduces productivity and economic growth.

Impacts on the healthcare system

Advancing age can increase the risk of disability and many health conditions, such as arthritis, cancer and dementia. This can put pressure on healthcare services and create hospital challenges, while more people are also likely to need home care or residential aged care services.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), more than 1.2 million Australians received aged care services in 2017–2018. Of those aged 65 and over:

  • 7% accessed residential aged care
  • 22% accessed some form of support or care at home
  • 71% lived at home without accessing government-subsidised aged care services

The number of Australians expected to use aged care services is estimated to almost triple to 3.5 million by 2050.

Many providers are also saying funding for aged care (around $20 billion in 2018–2019) is too low and needs to be increased.

A greater demand for health and aged care services also creates challenges for care and nursing staff. For example, the demand for workers could exceed supply before long, putting pressure on existing staff workloads. Attracting new employees to the sector can also be a challenge, especially with the work often being poorly paid.

More training and better remuneration for aged care workers were among the recommendations made to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, “aimed at improving their working lives so that our elderly citizens can receive safe care of the quality that they should receive in a country as rich as ours”.

Government Policies to Address Challenges

The Australian Government has recognised the need to meet community expectations around quality of care and address the economic impacts of our ageing population, and has:

  • Lifted the pension age from 65 to 67. The pension age will increase incrementally until 2023. The measure was introduced “to meet the challenges of an ageing population and the economic impact it will have for all Australians”.
  • Increased the rate for compulsory superannuation to 12% by 2025 to help people better fund their later years and reduce strain on the pension system.
  • Introduced My Aged Care, an online entry point to find and access government-funded services, including information about what services are available to help people stay in their own home, or what to expect in an aged care home.
  • Introduced Home Care Packages allowing people greater choice to direct their own care, choosing what services and how they are delivered. The government is also working towards more stable funding arrangements for residential aged care services and other reforms.

Service Provider Compliance

Aged care providers must comply with the Quality and Safety Commission Quality Standards, which focus on outcomes for consumers and reflect the level of care and services the community now expects.

Having the right tools, together with a system for continuous improvement, ensures you can take innovative approaches to deliver quality services to consumers and meet accreditation requirements, resulting in better pricing for services and attracting higher-paid qualified staff.

Tools and Resources Aligned with Quality Standards

Wolters Kluwer Health and Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) have developed the following tools and resources to support aged care services to address Quality Standards requirements:

The JBI evidence-based Practice Manual is a comprehensive resource which complements and extends from the JBI Carers Manual.

  • Developed with industry leaders including Nursing Directors, public and private sector experts and safety and quality representatives, this manual includes evidence for advanced care needs.
  • Standard 2 states that each consumer will be a partner in ongoing assessment and planning that helps them get the care and services needed for their health and wellbeing.
  • The manual includes 123 procedures that reflect the complexity of care needs due to serious medical illnesses, chronic diseases, and increasing acuity.

The JBI evidence-based Carers Manual is available exclusively on Ovid to assist care workers with ongoing assessment and planning.

  • Procedures focus on dignity and respect for inclusion, privacy, and informed choices as a co-participant in care planning and care delivery while supporting residents with fundamental care needs.
  • An essential resource for Directors of Nursing, General Managers, and practice managers.

JBI is one of the world’s leading evidence-based practice organisations which has been developing and updating resources for the Australian aged care sector since the early 200s. Its evidence-based practice model is considered a benchmark in the global healthcare industry.

For more information, click here.

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