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    Personal Care Home Frequently Asked Questions

    TwoOlderGentlemen

    What is the difference between a nursing home and a personal care home? 

    Nursing homes are licensed medical facilities that are inspected and licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They must meet both state and federal regulations. There is third party reimbursement (Medicare and Medicaid) for those who qualify based on income.

    Personal care homes are residential facilities that offer personal care services, assistance and supervision to four or more persons. They are inspected and licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Sometimes they are advertised as "assisted living residences," "retirement homes" or "boarding homes." A personal care home must have a license in order to operate in Pennsylvania. There are state licensing regulations that apply to personal care homes. These regulations are aimed at protecting the health, safety and well-being of the residents. There are no federal regulations for personal care homes. There is no third party reimbursement for personal care homes, but many personal care homes accept residents of low income who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

    How do I know it is time to begin looking for personal care services?
    This can depend on a variety of factors. For instance, an individual might become uncomfortable with living alone due to the possibilities of falling, getting sick, safety issues, forgetting to take medications, loneliness, poor nutrition or the difficulty of taking care of household responsibilities. Your loved one may be unable to manage routine tasks and may be at great risk when they try. Family members may not be able to provide a safe level of care for this individual. The choice is yours. Help may be through either in-home supports provided in your loved ones own home, your local Area Agency on Aging, or through a facility-based option, such as a personal care home.

    How do I know what services the personal care home is supposed to provide for the residents? 
    There are a few ways that you can find out what services a particular personal care home offers. Contact the personal care home and ask to see a description of services. This description of services will tell you exactly what services the home provides. Some of the services offered at a typical personal care home include assistance with eating/drinking, bathing/personal hygiene, arranging for and managing health care, doing laundry, using prosthetics and many other services. Finding out what services a home offers is very important in determining if the home can meet the individual's needs. Each home is required to have a description of services available. Ask to see a copy of the standard resident-home contract that will include the fee for each service offered by the home.

    What activity programs are available at a personal care home?
    Activities at personal care homes are developed to meet the needs of each resident. Some activities are conducted in groups to provide opportunities to socialize with others, while others are individual activities for each resident. Most activities usually occur on the grounds of the home, although some facilities are able to offer trips to interesting places in the community. Activities available are dependent upon which personal care home you choose. This is a factor that you may want to check into when choosing a personal care home for your loved one.

    What are the rights of residents living in a personal care home?
    A resident who lives in a personal care home has many rights, including:

    • No discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, disability, handicap, ancestry, sexual orientation, national origin, age or sex.
    • No neglect, intimidation, physical or verbal abuse, mistreatment, corporal punishment or discipline in any way.
    • Treated with dignity and respect.
    • Informed knowledge of the rules of the home and given 30 days written notice prior to the effective date of a new home rule.
    • Access to a telephone in the home to make calls in privacy. Non-toll calls shall be without charge to the resident.
    • The right to receive and send mail.
    • Privacy of incoming and outgoing mail.
    • The right to communicate privately with and access the local ombudsman.
    • The right to practice the religion or faith of the resident's choice, or not to practice any religion or faith.
    • He/she shall receive assistance in accessing health services.
    • He/she shall receive assistance in obtaining and keeping clean, seasonal clothing.
    • The right to access, review and request corrections to the resident's record.
    • The right to furnish his/her room and purchase, receive, use and retain personal clothing and possessions.
    • The right to leave and return to the home at times consistent with the home rules and the resident's support plan.
    • The right to relocate and to request and receive assistance, from the home, in relocating to another facility.
    • The right to freely associate, organize and communicate with others privately.
    • He/she shall be free from restraints.
    • He/she shall be compensated in accordance with state and federal labor laws for labor performed on behalf of the home.
    • The right to receive visitors for a minimum of 12 hours daily, seven days per week.
    • The right to privacy of self and possessions.
    • The right to file complaints with any individual or agency and recommend changes in policies, home rules and services of the home without intimidation, retaliation or threat of discharge.
    • The right to remain in the home, as long as it is operating with a license.
    • The right to receive services contracted for in the resident-home contract.
    • The right to use both the home's procedures and external procedures to appeal involuntary discharge.
    • The right to a system to safeguard money and property.
    • The right to choose his/her own health care providers.

    How can I get a list of personal care homes in my area?

    The online Personal Care Homes Directory lists all of the personal care homes licensed in Pennsylvania. This directory is updated on a regular basis. You can search by county/region, zip code, facility name or you can use the Sort By feature.

    Are personal care homes licensed and regulated?
    Yes. All personal care homes are licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Personal care homes also meet state and local health, fire and safety laws and regulations.

    The personal care home regulations are available at the following link:

    Do personal care homes have to hire professional staff, like doctors and nurses?
    Personal care homes are not medical facilities and they do not have to hire nurses or other medical staff. Personal care homes are required to hire staff who meet basic education requirements. Personal care homes must provide initial and ongoing training for staff.

    Must I give all my money and possessions in order to be cared for at a personal care home?
    No. You should only be asked to pay for the care and services you receive. Whatever monies and possessions you have in addition to that remains yours.

    Do Supplemental Security Income (SSI) residents get the same services as private pay residents?
    Yes. SSI residents are entitled to the same care and services as private pay residents receive.

    What if I am independent, but my spouse needs to be in assisted living?
    There are a number of couples living in personal care homes who do not share the same health needs. Some homes can make accommodations for the couple; while others cannot. This depends on the personal care home you choose.

    How does a personal care home obtain referrals for residents?
    The Department of Public Welfare does not place or refer residents in personal care homes. The personal care home provider is responsible for admissions into the facility. The individual, or the individual's family and friends, select the personal care home of his/her choice.

    What do I do if I think a facility is operating illegally without a license?
    Contact the appropriate Department of Public Welfare Personal Care Home Regional Licensing Office. Each regional office is assigned responsibility for certain counties in Pennsylvania. Regional licensing office staff investigate complaints about personal care homes that are operating without a required license from the Department of Public Welfare.

    How do I make a complaint about a personal care home?
    Please see the Personal Care Home Complaint section.