When is it time to send a loved one into aged care? It’s a complicated question that has a different answer for everyone. For some, it’s when their loved one can no longer care for themselves at home. For others, it’s when their loved one needs more constant support than what they can offer.

Aged care is a growing industry, with millions of people of people living in facilities needing care and assistance. However, are there people living in aged care who do not need to be there? A new report seems to think so.

A new study from Canada has found that one fifth of residents in aged care facilities in Canada do not need to be there – rather, they could have continued to remain at home for longer if the had the proper support and resources.

Though the study was based in Canada, much of the analysis and discussion it raises can be applied to many western countries, including Australia.

The report “Seniors in Transition”, released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, highlighted the need for health organisations to plan and coordinated their services as people get older.

It also found that older people in hospitals are six times more likely to go directly into residential aged care than those who are assessed for long-term care from their own homes.

“Hospitals were designed for short-term stays, but with seniors, they often have multiple conditions,” MacDonald said, “they present with one condition, but there can be a number of things going on.”

The the researches concluded was that it is important to give older patients more time to recuperate before assessing whether they should be in aged care or not.

“What this study shows is we need to be giving a little bit longer to recover before doing an assessment that could determine the rest of their lives,” she said.

“We’ve had a lot of population growth and we’re all feeling the impact of aging. But we haven’t come close to what we’re going to be experiencing in the next 20 years,” said Georgina MacDonald, CIHI’s vice president when speaking speaking specifically about Canada – however, this could apply globally too.

“As a health system, we really need to focus on how we provide the best care for this population. It’s not about the aging population, it’s how do they use the system and how do we be sure to provide the best care.”

In 2017, Canada has 6.2 million people over the age of 65, including 2.6 million over age 75. In Australia, it’s estimated that approximately 15.8% of the population are over 65 – that around 3.6 million people. Both countries are seeing a steep increase in ageing population.

The study found that the average age of a person in aged care is 86, with 70 per cent being female. Of all the residents, only 67 per cent have dementia and 98 per cent have some form of cognitive or physical impairment.

“There’s not a health organization in the country that doesn’t have this on their (radar),” MacDonald said.

“What organizations are really looking at it is how they can provide support in the community to keep people in the community longer. If you look at the projections, it’s very clear we’re going to have to do things a little bit differently tomorrow than we do now. We’re simply not going to be able to build enough beds, nor would we want to.”

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