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Understanding the Differences Between Assisted Living and Personal Care Facilities



Retired couple chatting with caregiver at their personal care homeWhen considering retirement living options, seniors have more choices in types of facilities today than ever before. Of the many choices—and the two that frequently get confused—are assisted living and personal care. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different.

In this post, we want to go over the differences between assisted living and personal care facilities to clear up some of the confusion.

How Assisted Living and Personal Care Are Often Confused

In the past, assisted living and personal care used to refer to the same type of facility, which is cause for much confusion today. However, in 2011, regulations changed in Pennsylvania and created legal differences between the two. Now, facilities licensed as assisted living must meet different requirements than those licensed as personal care.

To further the confusion, there are a lot of similarities between the services offered by care providers under the two differing terms.

  • Both types of retirement facilities are typically private pay, which means residents have to pay the fees out of their personal funds because Medicare doesn’t cover it.
  • Both types of facilities also provide housing, meals, and daily living assistance to seniors, who either cannot or prefer not to stay in their homes.
  • Many seniors want to move to a facility where they can still live independently but have immediate access to assistance when needed—both types of facilities offer that.

How these facilities differ, however, has to do with accommodation and support services requirements.

Living Unit Requirements

One of the most significant differences between assisted living and personal care facilities is the living unit requirements. The licensing requirements for assisted living facilities stipulate that the private quarters or living units can only house a maximum of two people. On the other hand, personal care facilities can have up to four people sharing one living unit.

Another difference between the two is that in assisted living facilities, the living units must be able to be locked by the residents. Locks are not required in personal care facilities.

In assisted living facilities, the living units also need to be equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave. People living in personal care facilities have to provide their own appliances since the facility is not required to provide them.

Regulations also cover access to bathrooms and showers. In assisted living facilities, each living unit must have a bathroom that includes a toilet, tub or shower, sink, mirror, and an emergency alert system. However, in a personal care facility, the units do not have to include private bathrooms. In those facilities, there just has to be one bathroom for every six people—including staff—and one shower or tub for every ten people.

Staffing and Training

It’s no secret that seniors of all ages and health levels will need medical care at some point. No matter which type of retirement community or nursing home someone you know lives at, they’ll have access to healthcare. It just varies for each type of facility.

For example, at assisted living facilities, a registered nurse must be either on duty—or at the very least—on call at all times. There is no such requirement for personal care facilities. Instead, personal care facilities include health care centers, to which residents have access.

Luckily, both types of facilities require staff to have professional training and to complete ongoing training each year. Assisted living facility staff are also required to complete a few more hours of training than the team at personal care facilities.

Support Services

No senior wants to go to a “nursing home,” like those of past generations. Fortunately, seniors have more long-term care options than even their parents did. Nursing homes of old have been reimagined and much improved.

As a result, assisted living facilities are required to provide residents with access to a range of supplemental services. Some of the additional support services include memory care, physical and occupational therapies, and hospice. While some personal care facilities do offer these support services, they are not required to do so, though many will contract with other local resources to provide these critical services.

When deciding whether to move to an assisted living facility or personal care facility, seniors should carefully consider the services and amenities available on/near campus and the costs.

What to Consider Before Making a Retirement Living Decision

Now that you’re aware of the differences between assisted living and personal care, you may not be sure which one sounds best for you or your loved one. Keep reading to learn more about some of the primary considerations you should think about—and essential questions you should ask—before making a decision.

Assess Your Current Health

Seniors should assess not only their current health and personal care needs but also what needs they are likely to have in the future. Are there mobility concerns, early signs of memory loss or cognitive decline, or severe health issues that could cause you to need more assistance in the coming years? If so, be sure the facility you are considering can accommodate those needs on-site.

Prepare for the Unexpected

As we mentioned above, personal care facilities are not required to provide a wide range of support services, though many do. In some cases, if a senior’s needs exceed what a facility can accommodate, that senior would have to move. This is an especially important consideration for couples who wish to stay together even if one spouse has more advanced health or personal care needs than the other.

Understand Your Physical and Social Needs

The goal of all these facilities is to help seniors of all health levels and abilities thrive during their golden years. A big part of that is through social activities, exercise, and daily living amenities. When considering a facility, seniors should find out what kind of organized social events and activities exist to help residents interact, stay engaged, and have fun.

Seniors should also find out if the facility has a gym or fitness center, and whether it has staff trainers and offers regular exercise classes. Seniors should review the list of amenities and services that are included with their monthly fees. For example, does the facility have a laundry service? Do staff assist with medication administration? What type of meal plans are offered? And, can residents have overnight guests visit?

What Can You Afford?

Finally, seniors need to take a hard look at the numbers. Long-term care is expensive, and the more services that are required, the higher the costs will be. Before moving to any facility or retirement community, seniors should calculate the costs for essential services and enhanced services they might need someday to know what they can afford. Because people are living longer than ever before, and the prices of long-term care are rising, seniors should also find out what the community does when seniors outlive their savings. Some private pay facilities would require those seniors to move.

Looking for the Best Retirement Option in Lancaster, PA?

When exploring long-term care and retirement living options, be sure to check out not only assisted living and personal care facilities but also continuing care retirement communities like Calvary Homes.

Here at Calvary Homes, we’re not just a facility—we’re a community. All of our residents can enjoy a close-knit family atmosphere, all while getting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that we offer. To find out more about the accommodations and progressive care options we offer, contact us online or give us a call!