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How the updated Assisted Living and Personal Care definitions affect PA seniors and Concordia

August 6, 2013

Below is a story published in a previous issue of Faith in Caring magazine on the difference between assisted living and personal care in Pennsylvania. It's a little longer than some of our other posts, but worth the time! To be added to the mailing list or e-mail distribution list, e-mail us here or call the Concordia Public Relations Department at 724.352.1571, ext. 8266. Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment below!

There are roughly 48,000 seniors in Pennsylvania currently living in a facility where they receive professional assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Those ADLs include things like bathing and personal hygiene, mobility assistance, wound care, preparation of special nutritional meals or diets, housekeeping and much more.

For many families considering moving a senior loved one to a place where he/she can get some extra help, the terminology in senior care can be a little confusing at times. A few definitions, most notably "assisted living" and "personal care" have changed in the last couple years. Prior to that, the two terms had been used interchangeably in PA.

According to the PA Office of Long Term Living, "assisted living" facilities must now earn licensure by adhering to a number of new regulations, while "personal care" facilities will have the same oversight they have always had. While there are several smaller regulatory differences with the new assisted living regulations, there are three primary differences:

1. Assisted living facilities must allow residents to "age in place" without having to move to a licensed long-term care facility when their needs increase.

2. Assisted living units must have "kitchen capacity."

3. Assisted living units must be 100 percent private and include a private bathroom, unless residents request or agree to have a roommate.

Concordia Lutheran Ministries Vice President for Personal Care Brian Hortert, who is also CEO of Concordia Lutheran Ministries of Pittsburgh, sat down to talk about the changes and how they ultimately affect Concordia and those in our care.

Faith in Caring Magazine (FIC): With the new definitions of "assisted living" and "personal care" in Pennsylvania, what should those living in or considering moving to a Concordia personal care facility expect to see different now?

Brian Hortert: Those residents currently living in or considering a move to a Concordia personal care facility will see virtually no change in how we operate. Concordia has always exceeded required staffing levels, not only in our direct care staff but also in our ancillary departments. This trend will continue regardless of the regulatory environment. The only change you will see is in the signage around our buildings and our admission agreements will state "Personal Care" as opposed to "Assisted Living".

FIC: One of the new assisted living regulations states that an assisted living facility must allow residents to "age in place." Isn't that already the case at Concordia personal care facilities?

Brian: In all areas of Concordia's service lines we have practiced an "age in place" model for years. We believe that all individuals should be afforded the opportunity to practice individual choice in how and where they have their care needs met. We believe there are many services available to personal care residents that allow them the ability to remain in their personal care home. These services include the use of many home and community based services such as home care, hospice and medical equipment options.

FIC: Another new regulation says each room in the assisted living facility must have "kitchen capacity."

Brian: The regulation for "kitchen capacity" is a somewhat fluid regulation that can be met in various ways. It is normal in all of Concordia's facilities for residents to have a microwave and / or a small refrigerator either provided in the living unit or a family member bringing one. This arrangement meets the regulatory requirement. Concordia also provides 3 meals a day and offers snacks throughout the day to decrease the need and desire to have an individual kitchen. The regulation also requires that the resident be provided with a sink in order to wash dishes. While all of our facilities do have a sink available in the living unit, I have met few residents with the desire to do the dishes.

FIC: Aren't most of Concordia's 900+ personal care beds already private?

Brian: The vast majority of Concordia's personal care beds are private. However, we do believe that having various options of room sizes and accommodations affords current and potential residents more choices. Having these options also allows us to, as best we can, provide for residents with limited funds and those who have spent down their funds in one of our facilities.

FIC: Doesn't staffing have something to do with the new assisted living licensure also?

Brian: Direct care staffing levels have been left virtually unchanged by the new regulations in our view, as we have consistently exceeded the requirements. All of our facilities have licensed staff on hand in addition to the ability to draw on the expertise from our sister facilities.

FIC: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Brian: Regardless of how a license categorizes a facility, we believe that providing a homelike setting, with great, caring staff in a Christian environment is paramount. Having the ability to provide care for an individual through the end of life, and giving the resident and family choice in caregiving options is simply the right thing to do. It would be our intention to always work within the regulations to accomplish this task.

Visit our website for more information on Concordia's western PA Personal Care facilities and eastern Ohio Assisted Living facilities. You can also contact an admissions coordinator toll free at 1.888.352.1571 or e-mail us here.

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