There are events in family life that trigger the inquiry into personal care homes and assisted living communities.
It’s the middle-of-the-night phone call we all dread; your loved one needs help. Perhaps they’ve injured themselves getting out of bed, or they wake up confused and scared, not knowing where they are or if they took the right medication at the right time. The days that follow are a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, follow-ups, and endless notes about treatments and prescriptions scribbled in the margins of notebooks and scrap pieces of paper. All of this while still managing the needs of your family.
Realizing that it may be time to find some help, you begin exploring options, only to discover a new uncertainty; what exactly does my loved one need? An assisted living facility? A personal care home? What’s the difference? When should we make the move?
Together, let’s demystify this often-confusing part of senior living.
Who Should Move to a Personal Care Home or Assisted Living Facility
If you’ve wondered whether it’s safe for your loved one to continue living on their own, it may be time to consider moving to a Personal Care Home and Assisted Living facility.
Generally, it’s often helpful to think of Personal Care Homes and Assisted Living facilities as being one step above living independently. Those who need assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs) benefit greatly from the services provided at such residential settings.
Activities of daily living include:
- Personal grooming
- Medication management
- Nutrition monitoring
- Coordinating social and medical appointments
Both Personal Care and Assisted Living facilities are meant to be a good middle ground for those who need some assistance but do not require the advanced services provided by long-term care and skilled nursing facilities. So, what’s the difference between Personal Care and Assisted Living?
Personal Care Homes vs Assisted Living Facilities in Pennsylvania
Until 2011, all facilities in Pennsylvania were licensed as Personal Care Homes. Most used the terms “assisted living” and “personal care” interchangeably. In 2007, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Senate Bill 704, joining only a handful of other states to officially recognize Assisted Living Facilities as a separate and distinct type of senior care. The commonwealth began issuing separate licenses for Assisted Living Facilities in January 2011.
As of this writing, most facilities in Pennsylvania are still licensed as Personal Care Homes. On the surface, Assisted Living Facilities and Personal Care Homes are very similar; both help residents with their activities of daily living and offer other services and amenities such as:
- Chef-prepared meals
- Daily light housekeeping and linen services
- Scheduled transportation for shopping, events, and medical appointments
- Social, recreational, and cultural programs and events
- Wellness programs and fitness classes
- Multidenominational worship services
The key difference between Assisted Living Facilities and Personal Care Homes is that the former provides 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 are also required by law to provide larger residences with a kitchenette.
Personal Care Homes generally allow a resident to age in place until their needs change (such as requiring at least two people to lift them out of bed). These residents then move to a skilled-nursing facility. However, many Personal Care Homes offer the same type of healthcare services as Assisted Living Facilities. For example, Pine Run Lakeview (Pine Run Retirement Community’s Personal Care Home) offers round-the-clock nursing and support staff, something that isn’t required by law but a service we feel is crucial to the well-being of our residents. And while our accommodations do not have kitchens, residents are provided three delicious meals prepared each day by trained culinary chefs.
Why Don’t Personal Care Homes become Assisted Living Facilities?
Transitioning from a Personal Care to an Assisted Living licensure can be a prohibitively expensive process for some communities. Individual residences would have to be physically expanded, and the heavy construction required to complete this work would be incredibly disruptive to the residents currently living there. Additionally, as we will explore in the next section, the level of care and services provided would not change significantly.
What Should Families Consider?
On-site Nurses vs. On-call Nurses
When researching either Personal Care or Assisted Living communities, the most important factor should be the quality and level of care provided to each resident. For example, some facilities have licensed nurses “on-call” but not physically in the building. Pine Run Lakeview, however, has licensed nurses on-site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If a resident needs assistance in the middle of the night, a nurse is already on duty and in the building ready to respond. Our nurses also manage and administer all medications and treatments, and coordinate follow-up appointments.
Affiliations & Associations with Local Healthcare Organizations
If the facility is a Personal Care Home, as most are in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, be sure to consider what affiliations the community has with local hospitals and skilled-nursing homes. This will be important if your loved one needs higher levels of care down the road.
As part of Doylestown Health, Pine Run Lakeview residents have easy access to both Doylestown Hospital and the Pine Run Health Center, each nationally recognized for providing the highest quality of care. In fact, the Pine Run Health Center was recently named among the best nursing homes in the country for 2021-2022 by U.S. News & World Report, a designation achieved by an elite 13 percent of short- and long-term care residences nationwide.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Medicare and Medicaid do not cover the costs of Personal Care Homes and Assisted Living Communities. Therefore, residents pay out-of-pocket for the daily or monthly rate of their community. At Pine Run Lakeview, residents may pay with a check, direct withdrawal from their bank, or they may opt to have their loved ones coordinate payment.
Before meeting with an admissions coordinator from a Personal Care or Assisted Living facility, it’s important to have a good understanding of your loved one’s financial situation. Gather as much information as you can about their bank accounts, investment accounts, and insurance policies. Many long-term care policies cover portions of personal care and even skilled-nursing services. An admissions coordinator can review the policy and tell you what services would be covered at their facility.
The Bottom Line? Peace of Mind.
At the end of the day, what families are really searching for is peace of mind. They want to know that if their loved one needs help at any hour of the day with needs large and small, licensed and professional staff are just footsteps away.