We trust the health, safety, and well-being of the people we love to personal care facilities, so safety standards are of the utmost importance. In Pennsylvania, a personal care facility must be registered and inspected by the state’s Department of Human Services, and all facilities must adhere to safety regulations in order to maintain their license.
When choosing a personal care facility for a loved one, it is imperative to understand how the home aligns with state standards for safety and wellness as well as any other standards of care the facility has in place to ensure your loved one enjoys a high quality of life.
What is a Personal Care Facility?
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services defines personal care homes as “residential facilities that offer personal care services, assistance, and supervision to four or more persons.” They often offer such services as assistance with eating and drinking, bathing and personal hygiene, arranging for and managing health care, doing laundry, and using prosthetics. Personal care facilities often organize activities that meet residents’ social needs as well, such as games, get-togethers, group exercises, and trips to interesting places in the community. The types of services offered by these facilities vary depending on the resources available and the residents they serve.
In 2011, the state of Pennsylvania began to differentiate the terms “personal care home” and “assisted living.” While the terms were previously interchangeable, it became necessary to clearly delineate the types of services offered by different facilities, so seniors with advanced medical needs could choose a home that is best suited to them. Facilities that are licensed as assisted living typically offer more skilled healthcare services to allow a resident to age in place without having to move to a skilled-nursing facility. Facilities with an assisted living license also are required by law to provide larger residences with a kitchenette. However, many personal care homes offer many of the same services and amenities that assisted living facilities are required to offer by law.
Regardless of the specific services they offer, personal care facilities must adhere to a set of regulated safety standards. It is important to verify that these standards are met and learn whether a facility follows any other safety protocols related to the unique needs of its residents.
What Safety Standards Are Required in Pennsylvania?
Personal care facilities are required to follow several protocols for bathrooms, such as handrails in toilet and bath areas, slip-resistant surfaces, and a well-stocked supply of toiletry items for every resident. Bedrooms are maintained by staff, with linens, pillows, and blankets kept clean and in good repair. Laundry services are provided by personal care facilities on a weekly basis. These facilities are also required to maintain cleanliness standards for eating areas; dishes, silverware, and glasses are kept clean, and adaptive eating equipment should be provided for residents who need assistance with eating. Personal care facilities are also required to protect food from contamination with proper storage practices and kitchen appliances.
When it comes to residents’ individual hygiene, facilities must provide assistance with personal care tasks as outlined in the resident’s assessment and support plan, such as bathing, oral hygiene, hair grooming and shampooing, dressing and care of clothes, shaving, and care of nails, feet, and skin. Safety protocols are also in place for sanitation procedures as well as ventilation that ensures proper air flow.
Fire safety is a key concern for personal care facilities, so regulations are in place to ensure that residents and staff are safe in the event of an emergency. Stairways, hallways, doorways, passageways, and other routes from rooms and from the building must be unlocked and unobstructed. Exit doors must be equipped so that they can be easily opened by residents from the inside without the use of a key.
When it comes to emergencies for individual residents, personal care facilities are required to have a written emergency medical plan that includes the hospital or source of health care that will be used in an emergency (the resident’s choice, if possible), emergency transportation to be used, and an emergency-staffing plan. This ensures immediate and direct access to medical care and treatment for serious injury or illness.
First aid and CPR training is required for at least one staff member for every 50 residents.
Abuse in personal care facilities is taken very seriously, and there are a number of regulations in place to ensure that claims of abuse are investigated thoroughly. Facilities are required to report any suspected abuse and develop policies and procedures on the prevention, reporting, notification, investigation and management of reportable incidents and conditions. When abuse is reported, personal care facilities must notify both the affected resident and the resident’s designated person. If a claim of abuse is validated, the facility must also notify anyone who could potentially be harmed by this abuse.
Personal care facilities must ensure that residents have medical evaluations at least annually. If a resident experiences a significant change to their medical condition, such as an injury or worsening of a chronic condition like diabetes or arthritis, homes must facilitate a medical evaluation to assess any changing needs of the resident.
Facilities are required to provide residents with assistance, as needed, with the resident’s prescribed medication. This assistance includes helping the resident to remember the schedule for taking the medication, storing the medication in a secure place, and offering the resident the medication at the prescribed times. Residents who wish to administer their own medications must be assessed by a medical professional to determine their ability to self-administer and the need for medication reminders. When not self-administered, any prescription medication should be administered by a physician, licensed physician’s assistant, registered nurse, or another professional who has completed appropriate medication administration training.
For personal care facilities that serve residents with dementia, regulations are in place to ensure they receive the care they need. Residents who provide documentation of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia will be admitted into secured dementia care units, where they will receive advanced care. Residents in these units are assessed annually to determine how best to meet their needs for safety and wellness.
How Can Personal Care Facilities Exceed Basic Safety Requirements?
While personal care facilities are required to cater to residents’ medical needs, they are not required to have medical staff present on site. They are considered support facilities and often meet their requirements for medical care by transferring residents to medical facilities as needed. However, some personal care homes exceed the basic requirements for medical care; Pine Run Lakeview and The Garden, Pine Run’s secure memory care neighborhood, for example, exceed required safety standards by employing nurses on site 24/7.
When reviewing the medical safety practices of a personal care facility, it is important to consider not only whether the basic requirements of Pennsylvania law are met, but also if these practices meet the specific needs of the prospective resident. Consider asking the following questions.
- Is the facility equipped to address the nuances of the resident’s medication needs?
- Would the resident benefit from particular forms of dementia care?
- Would the presence of registered nurses provide an environment that would best serve the resident’s needs for physical and mental wellness?
- Would knowing that certain forms of medical care are available give loved ones increased peace of mind?
Personal care facilities should serve as comfortable homes where seniors can thrive. Knowing the important safety standards for personal care facilities and ensuring that your loved one’s chosen home follows or even exceeds those standards, will help families find a home that meets all their loved one’s needs for safety, health, and wellness.