The future of rehabilitation for older Australians

Ian D Cameron, Maria Crotty and Susan E Kurrle
Med J Aust 2021; 215 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51184
Published online: 16 August 2021

We urgently need a national strategy to reduce overreliance on hospital services for functional recovery treatments

In this issue of the Journal, Soh and colleagues report their study of the outcomes of inpatient rehabilitation for older people.1 Their findings can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Most participants (396 of 618, 60%) recovered pre‐admission levels of functional performance (as measured with the Activities of Daily Living [ADL] scale), but cognitive impairment (64% of participants) and frailty (the median Clinical Frailty Score at admission was 6 = “moderately frail”) were confirmed as negative prognostic factors. Within three months of discharge from inpatient rehabilitation, 160 of the 618 had been newly institutionalised (26%) and 75 of the 693 initially included patients had died (11%). Recovery of ADL function was, as expected, more frequent than recovery of the more complex functioning assessed by the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living scale (35%). But 110 of the 192 people living at home prior to admission who made no functional gains on the ADL during rehabilitation (57%) were still at home at the three‐month follow‐up and had probably received some benefit from the coordinated rehabilitation program. While the investigation by Soh and colleagues was a single centre study, their findings are broadly similar to those of an older Australian multicentre study.2

  • 1 John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 Flinders University, Adelaide, SA
  • 3 Hornsby Ku‐ring-gai Hospital, Sydney, NSW


Competing interests:

Susan Kurrle is the Clinical Director, Rehabilitation and Aged Care Network, in the Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD). Ian Cameron is employed by the NSLHD. Maria Crotty is the Unit Head of Rehabilitation in the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SAHLN). The opinions expressed in this editorial do not reflect the policy of NSLHD or SAHLN.

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