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Caregiver and Senior August 24, 2017

Assisted living or personal care? What’s the difference in Pennsylvania?

By: Country Meadows | Assisted Living, Personal Care

Assisted living residences and personal care homes offer seniors many of the same services as independent living communities, but with the addition of assistance with daily needs. These long-term care options provide senior community residents with personalized support for daily activities such as dressing; bathing; dental, skin and nail care; shaving; laundry; housekeeping and medication management. Living accommodations at retirement communities typically include an apartment or a large room, plus three meals per day.

Some older persons express concern that in assisted living or personal care, they may sacrifice the privacy they have been accustomed to throughout their adult lives. They can rest assured, however, that the professionally trained staff who assist them will respect their privacy and dignity.

What is the difference between assisted living and personal care in Pennsylvania?

Their definitions, services and regulations vary from state to state. For example, in Maryland, retirement homes can offer several levels of care, with personal care being one, and all are covered by the same assisted living licensure and regulations.

The neighboring state of Pennsylvania is different. The two terms were interchangeable until 2011, when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began to distinguish between assisted living residences and personal care homes, licensing them separately. By definition, they now differ somewhat in their levels of care. A personal care home offers housing, meals and assistance with medications and personal care tasks. An assisted living residence does that as well, but also provides some skilled health care services to supplement the personal care. For that reason, residents there can “age in place” longer, making care in another skilled nursing facility unnecessary.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Long-Term Living distinguishes between assisted living residences and personal care homes in these three ways:

Concept – Assisted living residences permit residents to age in place, meaning that even as their health care needs increase, they will not have to relocate to another senior living home to receive that care.

Construction – Assisted living residences must provide residents a private room with a lockable door, a private bathroom and small kitchen. Personal care homes are not required to offer these amenities.

Level of Care –Assisted living residences must ensure that residents receive skilled nursing care if their needs surpass standard assisted living services.

Many Pennsylvania retirement communities have personal care homes that provide most assisted living services but have decided not to pursue assisted living status. This is because assisted living licensure can drive up administrative and staffing costs without increasing quality of care. In addition, Medicaid does not cover these higher costs with additional funding.

Some Pennsylvania senior living communities with multiple locations, such as Country Meadows Retirement Communities, offer both personal care and assisted living services. Country Meadows continues to deliver personal care at nine of its Pennsylvania campuses but provides assisted living services at its newest senior care location, Forks in Easton, as well as its Frederick, Maryland retirement home.

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10 thoughts on “Assisted living or personal care? What’s the difference in Pennsylvania?”

  1. Joyce Haskins says:

    I would like to know about pricing at the different levels in your nursing home site. Please send me information.

    1. Country Meadows says:

      Hello! We would be happy to share that information with you. I’ll be emailing you directly.

  2. Joan Bucher says:

    Are there currently (February, 2020) legal differences in Pennsylvania between Personal Care facilities and Assisted Living facilities? If so, can a facility that offers only Personal Care legally advertise that it offers Assisted Living ? Some facilities seem to use the 2 terms interchangeably,but I think there is a difference, so I am confused. Thanking you in advance for your reply.

    1. Country Meadows says:

      Thank you for asking as it can be very confusing for a consumer as in some states the terms are interchangeable if there is not specific licensure for both. And in layman’s terms, many people do not distinguish between the two either … just as many people still use “nursing home” when they are really referring to an assisted living community.

      In Pennsylvania, there are distinct licenses between the two (vs. say, in Maryland, there is only Assisted Living). Country Meadows holds both licenses: our Forks Township of Easton campus is licensed as an Assisted Living community as is our Frederick, MD campus, while our nine other PA campuses are Personal Care communities.

      We can’t speak to the legality of advertising one or the other. Because many consumers likely do not know the difference, retirement communities may use “Assisted Living” to describe the category in general since that is more well known. The best approach when researching communities is to ask specifically what levels of care they licensed to offer and what that includes. Then evaluate those services against what you or your loved one needs.

      We hope this helps and welcome you to reach out to any of our communities with further questions or needs at

  3. Sally Christine says:

    We are interested in assisted living for our parents. Just wondering if your facilities work with insurance. We would also like to know the pricing per month at each level. Thank in advance for your reply.

    1. Country Meadows says:

      Ms. Christine,

      Thank you for your interest. We have 10 communities in PA and MD. We will email you directly to confirm for which community you would like information. Thanks again for reaching out.

  4. imanuel says:

    When you refer to private bathroom… are you stating that each room must have a bathroom?

    That residents may not share a bathroom?

    I’d aprecciate a little clarification on that ty

    1. Country Meadows says:

      In Pennsylvania, licensed Assisted Living apartments must have private bathrooms in each apartment. This is not a requirement in licensed Personal Care units in Pennsylvania. Please reach out with any additional questions you may have.

  5. Alexis Bradford says:

    I need someone to help me get all certification that I need to start a personal care home in the state of Pa.

    1. Country Meadows says:

      It’s a great industry to be in, for sure. Best to reach out to the trade association, Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association at Good luck!

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