This summer, Governor Edward Rendell signed Act No. 56 into law establishing, for the first time in Pennsylvania, "assisted living" as a separate form of regulated senior housing and adding assisted living residences as a new licensed classification.
Previously, the senior housing regulatory system in Pennsylvania consisted of personal care homes, many of which offered only limited assistance with the activities of daily living such as bathing, preparing meals and administering oral medication, but not daily health care services, and nursing homes, which provide around-the-clock skilled nursing care. The act creates an intermediate licensed facility that will provide residents with the independence of a personal care home coupled with supplemental health services that had previously been reserved for only nursing home residents.
The act defines assisted living residences and creates new oversight powers in the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) over such facilities. DPW officials have stated that they do not anticipate the first assisted living licenses to be issued for two years, during which time the DPW will promulgate the assisted living-specific regulations required under the act. Some of the act's key provisions are:
- Assisted living residences will be subject to at least one unannounced inspection each year.
- Assisted living residences are prohibited from advertising cognitive impairment services without having trained staff and programs specifically designed to help such residents.
- All direct care staff must meet new orientation and training qualification standards, yet to be promulgated by the DPW, in order to continue working in an assisted living residence.
- Assisted living residences will be allowed to provide residents with basic health care services that staff of a personal care facility are not allowed to perform, such as administering intravenous medications and treating bedsores.
- Residents will have their own units in the facility, and will only share the room with another if both residents agree to the arrangement in writing via their residency agreements.
- Assisted living residences must permit residents to choose to participate in the residential portion of the residence's programming with or without the residence's medical services component. Residents cannot be required to pay for health care services that they will not utilize.