Choosing an Assisted Living, Personal Care or Nursing Home

Placing a loved one in an assisted living, personal care or nursing home can be an overwhelming and emotional undertaking for both the individual being placed and the family and friends helping in the process. If your loved one does not need supervision 24 hours a day, a personal care home may be more suitable; they provide lodging, food and personal care support services (such as bathing and dressing) for those in need of care. Finding an assisted living, personal care or nursing home can be a difficult and confusing experience, so plan ahead; talk with family, friends, social workers, doctors and a local ombudsman. Doing thorough research will satisfy you and your loved one that the facility you have chosen will provide the best care and comfort possible.

How Much Will It Cost for an Assisted Living/Personal Care Home?
The median cost of an assisted living/personal care home in Pennsylvania ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 a month. This cost can be funded in several ways: private pay, with costs covered by the individual receiving the care; through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) where one can apply for Personal Care Supplement; or through a “third party agreement” where an outside source (such as family or friends) helps to pay for services.

How Much Will It Cost for Nursing Home Care?
The average monthly cost of nursing home care in Pennsylvania is about $8,000. Medicaid pays the cost of nursing home care for people with limited incomes. Long-term care insurance, Medicare and private pay are ways in which to pay for care, so assess your financial situation.

First Steps for Prospective Residents
• Ask your doctor for a complete medical evaluation to decide if an assisted living, personal care or nursing home placement is right at this time.
• If financial assistance is needed, contact the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Area Agency on Aging SeniorLine at (412) 350-5460 to request an assessment for level of care.
• Please consider that the process of locating a residence and filling out the necessary paperwork takes time, and many facilities have waiting lists. Whenever possible, give yourself ample time to plan in advance.
• Speak to an ombudsman who has knowledge about the process.
• Consider location. Is it close to family and friends?

Researching an Assisted Living, Personal Care or Nursing Home
There is no need to be hesitant about paying a visit to a facility that you are considering for a loved one. Ask to be taken on a guided tour of the home and be sure to ask lots of questions. Visit for a Skilled Nursing Facility checklist.

The following are some considerations to assist you in organizing your thoughts and questions about each location. Feel free to ask any additional questions pertaining to your personal needs when visiting each facility.

• Comfort — Is the home clean, well lit, odor free and at a comfortable temperature?
• Safety — Does the facility have an emergency plan for patients in case of fire, flood or other disasters?
• Safety — Is it a safe environment with fire extinguishers, open pathways and smoke detectors?
• Rooms — Are personal items displayed for each resident? Are call buttons within easy reach? How many residents are in a room?
• Bathrooms — Are bathrooms clean and equipped with handrails and a call button that is easy to reach?
• Dining — Observe mealtimes. If meals for the month are not posted, request a copy. Does the food look and smell appetizing? Does the staff spend time feeding residents and not rushing them through their meals?
• Social activities — Is an activities calendar posted? If not, request a copy. Are there a variety of activities to meet the needs of your loved one?
• Staff — Is there enough staff to meet the residents’ needs? Are they visible and willing to talk with you? Does the staff get residents up and dressed each day? Is there a social worker and dietician on staff?
• Residents and family members — Ask residents and their family members what they like most and least about the facility. Do residents appear to be content?
• Consult an ombudsman — They advocate for residents of nursing and personal care homes, or consumers of any long-term care service.
• Documents — Request the state facility inspection report.