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The Australian Government subsidises residential aged care services for older Australians whose care needs are such that they can no longer remain in their own homes. Residential aged care services provide accommodation and services to people requiring ongoing health and nursing care due to chronic impairments and a reduced degree of independence in activities of daily living. They provide nursing, supervision or other types of personal care required by the residents.

Residential aged care services face unique difficulties in administering palliative care, with permanent residents often having dementia and/or communication difficulties and comorbidities (AIHW 2015). Patients in hospices (a specialist facility delivering palliative care services) are more likely than permanent residents in residential aged care services to have a cancer diagnosis; conversely, permanent residents are more likely than hospice patients to have a diagnosis of a chronic degenerative disease(s) (Gribich et al. 2005).

Palliative Care provided in a residential aged care service is regulated under the Aged Care Act 1997, within the Quality of Care Principles. Within the schedule of specified care and services, an Approved Provider is responsible for providing access to a qualified practitioner from a palliative care team, and the establishment of a palliative care program, including monitoring and managing any side effects for any resident that needs it.

The AIHW's National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse contains information gathered via a number of data collections. Data collected from the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI), which is used to determine the level of Australian Government subsidies for permanent residents, has been used for the analyses presented here. Permanent residents who have been appraised as requiring palliative care under the ACFI are included in the 'palliative care' group described in this section.

Key points

  • Nationally, there were 231,500 permanent residents in Australia in 2014–15 with completed ACFI appraisals, and about 1 in 25 of these residents (9,144) had an ACFI appraisal indicating the need for palliative care. 
  • The proportion of ACFI appraisals resulting in palliative care within aged care facilities increase with the age of the resident.
  • The population rate of palliative are among permanent residents was highest in Inner regional areas (69.0 per 100,000) followed by Outer regional (38.8) and Major cities (32.2).
  • Around one-quarter (23.2%) of residents receiving palliative care had been diagnosed with cancer, with the types of cancer most often recorded being prostate cancer (21.9%) and lung cancer (17.4%).

This information was last updated in October 2016.


Gribich C, Maddocks C, Parker D, Brown M, Willis E & Hofmeyer A 2005. Palliative care in aged care facilities for residents with a non-cancer diagnosis: results of a survey of aged care facilities in South Australia. Australasian Journal on Ageing 24(2):108-13.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2015. Residential aged care and Home care 2013-14. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 5 May 2016.