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Guide to Senior Living in Pennsylvania

A spacious state in the mid-Atlantic region, Pennsylvania is home to major metro areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as sprawling rural areas. With such varied residential opportunities, seniors in Pennsylvania can choose an area to call home from many different regions across the state with variable costs of living. Those over the age of 65 make up around 18% of the population of Pennsylvania, or roughly 2.3 million people — a substantial portion of the population. The senior community in Pennsylvania is likely to grow as well; growth of 13.5% was expected from 2010 to 2020.

Despite high costs of living in the major metro areas of Pennsylvania, the cost of assisted living care on a monthly basis is relatively affordable, averaging $3,913. For those who need financial assistance paying this amount each month, however, resources are available across the state to make care more affordable. This guide covers many topics related to senior living in Pennsylvania, including the average cost of care across the state, available resources, and the programs and agencies that can support seniors in need.

Paying for Senior Living in Pennsylvania

The Cost of Senior Living in Pennsylvania

Assisted living facilities offer many benefits for seniors, but they aren’t the right fit for everyone. For those with differing needs, other care options may be a better choice. For example, those on a budget and with reduced care requirements may find adult day care to be the best option. On the other hand, people with more comprehensive medical needs may find nursing home care more suitable.

$4385

In-Home Care

$3913

Assisted Living

$4481

Home Health Car

$1457

Adult Day Care

$9733

Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in Pennsylvania

According to Genworth Financial’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey, seniors in Pennsylvania can expect to pay around $3,913 per month for assisted living. This amount is below the national average of $4,501, providing some savings for those who choose to call Pennsylvania their home in retirement.

Since Pennsylvania is located in between the Midwest, where the cost of living is low, and the Northeast, where costs tend to be higher, pricing in surrounding states varies quite a bit. Care is more expensive in neighbors Ohio, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, but less expensive in West Virginia.

$3913

Pennsylvania

$4501

United States

$6400

New Jersey

$4630

New York

$4339

Ohio

$4300

Maryland

$3750

West Virginia

The Cost of In-Home Care in Pennsylvania

At $4,385 a month, in-home care in Pennsylvania is comparable to the national average of $4,290 with only a $95 difference. The monthly fees in surrounding states places Pennsylvania comfortably in the middle. Seniors in New York and New Jersey pay $4,767 for services that allow them to remain living at home while south of PA in West Virginia, the same care costs only $3,432 per month. Homemaker care in Ohio comes the closest to PA at $4,290. 

$4385

Pennsylvania

$4290

United States

$4767

New York

$4767

New Jersey

$4290

Ohio

$3432

West Virginia

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Pennsylvania

Nursing home care costs are by far the biggest expense of all the care types due to the specialized, continual care residents need. Again, the cost per month in Pennsylvania falls in the median compared to the U.S. average and all neighboring states. Nationally, the average cost for monthly nursing home care is $7,513. The Keystone State exceeds that by $2,200 a month. However, 24/7 care is almost $1,900 less than in New York, $974 lower than in West Virginia and $913 less than New Jersey. Those looking for even more affordable nursing home care should look in Ohio where the average fee is $6,996 per month.

$9733

Pennsylvania

$7513

United States

$11613

New York

$10646

New Jersey

$6996

Ohio

$10707

West Virginia

Financial Assistance for Senior Living in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Medical Assistance

Pennsylvania Medical Assistance, also known as Medicaid, can be a viable option to help with the cost of an senior living facility for those who qualify for benefits. All seniors who receive Social Security Income (SSI) are automatically eligible for Medicaid.

In Pennsylvania, Non-Money Payment (NMP) Medicaid benefits are available for those who are elderly, disabled or blind who have income less than the monthly Social Security Income benefit amount. This level, also known as the federal benefit rate, or FBR, is $783 per month as of 2020 for an individual and $1,175 for a couple. This amount generally increases by 1.6% per year.

Pennsylvania also maintains a Medically Needy Only (MNO) program through Medicaid. Eligible seniors can use medical costs, including senior living facility bills, to effectively reduce income. The income limit for MNO is $425 per month or income remaining after medical bills of $425 or lower. If, for example, a senior has income of $4,000 per month, they are not eligible for Medicaid. However, if monthly senior living costs equal $3,750, this senior is considered to have just $250 in income per month when medical costs are considered, resulting in MNO eligibility. MNO can yield an allowance to cover other costs or, for those who have medical costs in excess of income, provide coverage for remaining medical expenses.

Contact: Seniors can apply for Medicaid through the COMPASS website, by calling the Consumer Service Center for Health Care Coverage at 1-866-550-4355 or with help from a senior’s local county assistance office (CAO). Those who wish to apply via mail can print a paper application.

VA Aid and Attendance Benefit

Seniors who are military veterans or a surviving spouse of a veteran in Pennsylvania may qualify for the VA’s Aid and Assistance Benefit. This monthly stipend is in addition to a veteran’s monthly pension to further assist with costs of living. To be eligible to receive VA benefits for an senior living facility, seniors must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • A requirement of help from a caregiver to perform normal activities of daily living, such as feeding, bathing and meeting medical needs
  • Disabilities that have resulted in a bedridden condition outside of any physical therapy or convalescent treatments
  • Current residence in a nursing home due to mental or physical challenges
  • Eyesight of 5/200 corrected acuity in one or both eyes or limitation to five degrees or less of the vision field with concentric correction

As of 2020, this aid program can offer a monthly benefit of up to $1,788 to an eligible veteran, $1,149 for a veteran’s surviving spouse or $2,120 for eligible couples.

Contact: Seniors seeking VA benefits must fill out form 21-2680, Examination for Housebound or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance, and return it to the Philadelphia regional VA office at Philadelphia Pension Center, P.O. Box 5206, Janesville, WI 53547.

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Pennsylvania

Note: All these rules typically apply to non-clinical senior living facilities, such as independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities. Nursing homes and other senior living facilities with a clinical setting may have additional or slightly different requirements and regulations. 

Pennsylvania maintains strict laws and regulations surrounding employment and operations in senior living facilities to keep seniors safe and healthy to the fullest extent possible.

Admissions Policy

Admission to a senior living facility in Pennsylvania necessitates certification by a physician that a high level of care is necessary on a daily basis. Senior living admission can be rescinded if any more critical health issues arise, including ventilator dependency, continuous intravenous fluids or reportable infectious diseases. Residents require a medical evaluation 60 days prior to admission that includes a mobility and daily living assessment.

Some senior living facilities also have a Special Care Unit, or SCU, located on the premises, for example, a memory care unit. Proof of a qualifying impairment is required for residency in these units.

Facility Requirements

All licensed senior living facilities must be well lit with markings, handrails, ramps and any other accessibility devices required for those with physical disabilities. Space for common dining must be available, and individual rooms need to be equipped with:

  • A fully equipped bathroom with sink, tub and toilet
  • Exterior locks on doors unless they pose a safety risk
  • Individual thermostats for both cooling and heating
  • Electrical outlets suitable for a small fridge or microwave
  • Storage space
  • A telephone jack

Medication Management

Medication management can be a big part of caring for those in senior living facilities. A resident who has approval can self-administer medication when appropriate. Medications must be kept stored away from staff. Residents approved to self-medicate can receive reminders from staff when required.

Those who cannot self-administer medication can receive assistance from licensed staff members who are approved to provide medication. All prescriptions must be labeled with residents’ names, dosage instructions and the prescribing doctor.

Memory Care Requirements

To meet memory care requirements, senior living facilities must provide the following:

  • A written mission that reflects goals for care specific to meeting the needs of residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • A description of how a residence’s physical location is designed to support memory care services
  • A description of the kinds of programming available to enrich the experience of residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • A detailed listing of security measures in place
  • A description of the training staff must complete to best care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • A summary of family involvement and support programs available
  • Assessment strategies for service plans, including how plans will evolve to meet residents’ unique needs

Staffing and Staff Training

Senior living facilities are required to have enough personnel on staff to provide one hour of care daily to all residents and two for those with mobility challenges. A licensed nurse must be on site or on call at all times, and a registered dietician must be available to help with dietary restrictions. The facility or administrator should be on site for at least 36 working hours a week.

Staff must be trained in emergency preparedness, fire safety and at least 18 hours of general training. Annually, 16 additional hours are required. Training records must be available for inspection when requested. Background checks are necessary for all staff, and all results, including any history of criminal actions, must be kept on record.

Pennsylvania Senior Living Free Resources

Pennsylvania Agencies

Pennsylvania Department of Aging

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is a state agency dedicated to providing support and resources for seniors throughout the state. Aging services include employment resources, caregiver support, help at home, Medicare counseling, legal assistance, ombudsman support, transportation resources and PACE prescription assistance. Seniors, their families and their caretakers can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Aging with questions or information requests.

Contact: Citizens can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Aging via email at [email protected] or by phone at (717) 783-1550.

Area Agencies on Aging in Pennsylvania

Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are senior-centered organizations that provide access to state and local resources. They generally cover a select geographical area spanning several cities or counties to best offer relevant information. AAAs can assist with Medicare and Medicaid enrollment, financial assistance programs, and local senior programming. These organizations are free to use for seniors living in an AAA’s specific metro area.

Veterans Affairs Offices in Pennsylvania

Veteran Affairs offices can be valuable resources for veterans and their families in need of assistance. In addition to standard VA benefits, seniors who need help paying for care can also get assistance from programs like the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit. Offices are located throughout the state of Pennsylvania for those who may be eligible for assistance through the VA.

Social Security Offices in Pennsylvania

Benefits available through the Social Security Administration can be an important source of income for seniors. For many living in senior living, Social Security income covers some or all of the cost of a room in a care facility. Seniors who require additional information can contact any of the Social Security offices throughout the state.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Pennsylvania?

The cost of assisted living programs in Pennsylvania average $3,913 per month, an amount around $100 lower than the national average. However, this price can fluctuate from one area of the state to another. While places like Philadelphia, a large city with a high cost of living, are more expensive, smaller cities, like Erie and Reading, can be far more affordable.

Are there financial assistance programs available for assisted living in Pennsylvania?

Yes, seniors in Pennsylvania can apply for several different financial assistance programs throughout the state. This includes Pennsylvania Medical Assistance, or Medicaid, programs like Non-Money Payment (NMP) and Medically Needy Only (MNO), which can help seniors afford care. In addition, seniors who served in the military may qualify for additional assistance through the Department of Veteran Affairs.

What are “Activities of Daily Living”?

Activities of daily living, also called ADLs, are activities of normal day-to-day life. These can include things like getting out of bed, bathing, getting dressed, eating, using the bathroom and cleaning a residence. Many seniors who live in assisted living facilities require some level of assistance with ADLs.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

The primary difference between assisted living and nursing homes involves the level of medical management residents require. While assisted living facilities can handle things like medication administration and basic first aid, more advanced care isn’t available. More serious conditions or illnesses may disqualify seniors from living in assisted living.

Who should consider assisted living?

Assisted living facilities are best for those who need help with activities of daily living on a regular basis but don’t need the heightened level of care necessary for nursing home admission. Assisted living is also a good alternative to an in-home caregiver for those who would prefer to have around-the-clock care.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Pennsylvania

Learn more about the cost of senior living in the top Pennsylvania cities. Additionally, find reviews and information about assisted living facilities and other senior living communities across the state

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