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The Difference Between Personal Care and Assisted Living Communities

May 15, 2019

Written by Toni Kelly, LPN, Director of Resident Services 

Moving your loved one or yourself out of the family home and into a more supportive setting is an emotional, uncertain and perplexing situation. Questions abound regarding costs, location, services, and amount of oversight needed. The current market is geared toward the baby boomers, who are coming of age, and is intent on offering an array of senior living options. Each present a large variety of models and services, which can lead to the confusion in making a choice.

Many people refer to personal care as assisted living. That reference was true until 2011, when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania carved out two separate definitions and licenses for two very distinct entities.

What is A Personal Care Community?

Personal care communities provide shelter, meals, supervision and assistance with personal care tasks. Typically, older people or people with physical, behavioral health or cognitive disabilities live in a personal care community. These individuals are unable to care for themselves but do not need a nursing home or medical care.

Based on a social model, personal care communities provide daily assistance with personal hygiene, medication administration, securing doctor appointments, managing health care needs, laundry services and meal preparation, none of which are considered a “skilled” need. Although specific nursing coverage is not mandated, often personal care communities hire nursing staff as another layer of support and health management for its residents.

Additionally, many personal care communities specialize in the care of those with dementia and have specialized areas equipped to keep these individuals safe and entertained. Therapeutic recreation is another area that varies within communities offering anywhere from a few programs a week to an active daily schedule inclusive of outings and entertainment.

What Are Assisted Living Communities?

Assisted living was thought to “bridge the gap” between personal and skilled care. Offering higher level of care, such as nursing and some skilled services. Today, assisted living communities use mechanical lifts for transferring immobile residents and provide care for individuals dependent on colostomies, catheters and/or feeding tubes.

Initially, insurances were to provide funding for some services in assisted living communities, however this has yet to come to fruition. Both assisted living and personal care communities are primarily private pay.

Most communities are based on a rental model. Long term care insurances and the Veterans Administration can often help to offset the monthly costs.

Every facility should provide you with a list of their services. When beginning a search for the right fit, consider if you or your loved one requires higher level medical assistance or just looking for socialization and recreational opportunities. Visit multiple communities and visit each one at different times. Speak to staff and residents to get a feel for the culture. A good way to do this is to schedule meals at the communities; most would invite you to dine free of charge. Ask for copies of activity schedules and attend programs. Be sure that you ask questions and keep notes.

Remember, senior living is a competitive market. Inquire about move in specials, chances are you may be able to negotiate a deal!

Printed in the Daily Local News on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.