Many people use the terms “personal care homes” and “assisted living facilities” interchangeably for any residential care facility. However, in Pennsylvania the Department of Public Welfare licenses them as “Personal Care Homes.” On the website www.dpw.state.pa.us you can check for any violations found during DPW inspections.
These homes vary in size and services, but the core services are housing, meals, housekeeping, medication management, and help with personal care (i.e. dressing, bathing, and other activities of daily living). Some facilities have extensive activity programs, secure units for memory-impaired individuals, transportation for shopping and appointments, and on-site physical therapy.
Basic costs can run from $1,500 to over $5,000 per month, depending on the size of the room and the particular services offered. Some Long-Term Care Insurance policies will cover a portion of these costs. Some veterans may be eligible for a supplemental monthly payment when in a personal care home. (If you are a client of Keystone Elder Law, the attorneys will help you apply for eligible VA benefits.) Some Personal Care Homes will accept a limited number of individuals who qualify for the state supplement under Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, Medicare and Medicaid do not help pay for this level of care. Most facilities operate on a month-to-month basis and usually require a 30 notice when a resident decides to leave.
Other considerations : Try to get the best fit between the individual’s interests and needs and the facility’s characteristics.
If the resident has difficulty walking, try to get a room near the dining and activity centers, or look for a facility designed with short hallways.
If the resident likes to be involved, look closely at the activity program. Are there activities that interest the resident?
Check the dietary services. Are meals provided at times that fit the resident’s personal schedule? Can the dietary service meet the resident’s dietary restrictions, if there are any? Are the types of meals provided what the resident likes to eat?
How does a resident let someone at the facility know when he or she needs help? Some facilities have call bells in the rooms, some use emergency response transmitters, and some use both.
How convenient is the facility’s location for family and friends to visit? Are there private areas for family and friends to meet with the resident?
Are there physicians who come to the facility? Does the facility provide transportation to physician and other appointments?
If the resident has dementia, does the facility have a secured unit so the resident cannot wander outside the facility? Some facilities have a circular or square walkway so the residents never come to an end when walking.
Sometime in 2011 Pennsylvania plans to license a new level of care called “Assisted Living.” These facilities will provide more physical assistance for residents who need hands-on help but do not need to be in a nursing home. It is unknown at this point if Medicaid will help pay for this level of care. It will be important to remember there will be a difference between “Assisted Living Facilities” and “Personal Care Homes,” since many people presently use these terms interchangeably.