[This article was written by Elizabeth A. White, CELA* an attorney with Marshall, Parker and Weber].
Is a personal care home the same as a nursing home? This is a common question for families looking into care options for themselves or their loved ones. The answer is, no, although sometimes the two get confused.
Personal care homes are residences that provide seniors support with instrumental activities of daily living and/or activities of daily living. Assistance with instrumental activities of daily living can include help with housekeeping and laundry, medication management, shopping and meal preparation, using the telephone, and making appointments. Examples of activities of daily living that personal care homes may provide assistance with include eating, toileting, personal hygiene, and bathing. Each personal care home can provide a description of what services they provide to their senior residents. Usually there are more and more varied activities available to seniors in personal care homes than to those in nursing homes, because personal care residents are better able to participate than those living in a nursing home setting.
Although nursing homes also provide assistance with many of the activities listed above, seniors needs in a personal care home do not meet the higher level of services provided in a nursing home. While seniors in personal care home environments need some help with care, this help can successfully be provided in a more community like setting.
Personal care homes are licensed by the Department of Human Services to protect the health, safety, and well being of the residents. There is staff available at personal care homes at all times in case of emergency, but not necessarily medical staff. Personal care homes are not reimbursed by Medicaid, and therefore you cannot apply for Medicaid benefits to pay for living in a personal care home. Options for payment include private pay and Veterans benefits. Generally, personal care home level of care is less expensive than nursing home level of care.
Nursing homes provide a higher level of care than personal care homes. Like personal care homes, nursing homes are also licensed and inspected, but under a different set of standards. Skilled nursing and certain medical treatments are provided in nursing homes and medical supervision is available 24/7. Nursing homes do accept third party reimbursement though benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
It is difficult decision for a senior to move from their home. Well intentioned children or family members often think that their parent or loved one needs to move from living independently to a nursing home. A personal care home may be a good in-between to provide the required services to the senior, but allow the senior more autonomy than they may have in a nursing home setting. Detailed assessments of a senior’s assistance needs can help to determine the best place for a senior to thrive.
____ __________________ *Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation under authorization of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court