Researchers from the Faculty of Medical Health Sciences used data from four cross-sectional surveys of Auckland rest homes and hospitals licensed for the care of older people in 1988, 1993, 1998 and 2008 to examine whether real trends matched predictions that population increases would fuel high demand for residential services. They also considered changes in aged care residents’ dependency over the 20-year period.
Survey findings showed that even though Auckland’s population aged over 65 years increased 43 percent (from 91,000 to 130,000) actual numbers in care essentially remained unchanged.
Among those aged over 65 years, the proportion living in care facilities reduced from one in 13 to one in 18 over the 20 years. For those over the age of 85 the proportion dropped from 42 percent to 27 percent.
Principal investigator of the studies Professor Martin Connolly points out that the findings show a strong positive trend. “Most people want to remain independent and in their own homes as long possible and this has become much more possible over the last 20 years.”
Both Professor Connolly and Senior Research Fellow Dr Michal Boyd add that the introduction of pre-entry standardised needs assessments, more home-based services, and retirement lifestyle villages (which are not care facilities) are likely to have contributed to the lower-than-expected growth in Auckland’s residential aged-care sector.
The studies also reveal a drop in the number of independent residents from 18 percent in 1988 to only four percent in 2008 whereas the proportion of people considered highly dependent rose from 16 percent in 1988 to 21 percent in 2008. In the decade between 1998 and 2008 researchers found significant increases in dependency for continence, mobility, self-care and orientation, but no significant changes in memory and behaviour.
Dr Boyd says: “Dependency findings support claims from residential aged care providers that the care of residents has become more difficult in recent years.
“In the future it is probable that, if the provision for long-term care residents remains relatively stable, the overall dependency of residents will continue to increase because of the ageing population and increasing number of people with dementia.”