Pennsylvania has a larger-than-average senior community, with 18.7% of almost 13 million inhabitants aged 65 and older. The state’s cost of living is eight points below the national average. The state also has several excellent hospitals, including Penn Presbyterian in Philadelphia, nationally ranked in 12 specialties, and UMPC Presbyterian Shadyside in Pittsburgh, nationally ranked in 10 specialties.

Caring.com’s 2022 Senior Living Report ranks Pennsylvania 20th overall for senior living. While the state is 13th in housing for seniors and 19th in community involvement, it’s 34th in health care and 42nd in transportation. Assisted living in Pennsylvania falls into Assisted Living Residences (ALR) and Personal Care Homes (PCH). The two types of communities are very similar and both offer personal care services typical of assisted living. However, ALRs offer more advanced care services the PCHs, making them more adaptable to residents’ changing needs over time. For this reason, PCHs may cost slightly less than ALRs. The monthly average for assisted living in Pennsylvania is $4,100, which is $400 a month cheaper than the United States average. 

This guide for assisted living in Pennsylvania presents seniors with information on assisted living costs and using Medicaid to cover any of those costs. Seniors can learn about the rules and regulations that govern assisted living in Pennsylvania, and they will find several free resources that provide information, advocacy and services.

The Cost of Assisted Living in Pennsylvania

The cost of assisted living in Pennsylvania falls toward the lower end of these costs, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2021. In Pennsylvania, the monthly average for assisted living is $4,100. That’s $400 a month cheaper than the national average of $4,500 a month. West Virginia averages $4,160 a month, while the monthly average in New York is $4,580. Ohio has a monthly average cost of assisted living of $4,635. Maryland has the most expensive costs in the region, at $4,900 a month.

$4100

Pennsylvania

$4500

The United States

$4580

New York

$4160

West Virginia

$4900

Maryland

$4635

Ohio

The cost of assisted living in cities around the state varies considerably. Scranton has one of the lowest costs in the state, averaging $2,875 a month. In the western part of the state, Pittsburgh averages $3,250 a month. Allentown averages $4,784 a month in the industrialized northeast, while Harrisburg, the state capital, costs $4,828. Prices elevate as you get closer to Philadelphia, the state’s biggest city. Philadelphia itself averages $5,685 a month, while Reading, to the northwest of Philadelphia, averages $5,720 per month. Lancaster, situated in Pennsylvania Dutch country, also has a higher price tag of $5,550 a month.

$4784

Allentown

$5720

Reading

$5550

Lancaster

$4828

Harrisburg

$5685

Philadelphia

$3250

Pittsburgh

$2875

Scranton

Older residents of the state have the option of other kinds of senior living. If you’ve decided to age in place but need help with certain activities of daily living, home care costs $4,957 per month. That’s the same price as home health care, which includes medical assistance. Adult day care remains the most inexpensive option, at $1,625 a month. A semiprivate room in a nursing facility is $10,403 a month for seniors who need more extensive care.

$4100

Assisted Living

$4957

Home Care

$4957

Home Health Care

$1625

Adult Day Health Care

$10403

Nursing Home Care (semiprivate)

Does Medicaid Cover Assisted Living in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, Medicaid is known as Medical Assistance. It doesn’t fund any care services or provide financial assistance to seniors living in ALRs. The only assistance offered in Pennsylvania for anyone living in an assisted living facility is a state supplement for those receiving Social Security insurance.

State Supplemental Payment Program in Pennsylvania

The state supplemental payment program is available to eligible seniors who reside in a Personal Care Boarding Home or in an assisted living facility (known as a Medicaid facility), although the payments available differ greatly. Pennsylvania adds the state supplement to your SSI payment, which is sent to you directly. To receive the state supplemental payment, you must first apply for SSI.

How To Know If You’re Eligible for Medicaid in Pennsylvania

A single senior can’t apply for SSI if they earn more than $794 a month, while the income of a two-person household cannot exceed $1,191. When one person is applying, asset limits are $2,000. If both members of a two-person household are applying, the asset limit is $3,000. Not all SSI recipients receive the maximum amount. Your payment may be lower if you have other income.

SSI Income Limits for Seniors in Pennsylvania

Income Limits* 

Asset Limits

Single Applicant

$794

$2,000

Two-Person Household
(Only One Person Applying)

$1,191 

$2,000

Two-Person Household
(Both People Applying)

$1,191

$3,000

* Per year

To be eligible for SSI in Pennsylvania, you must be:

  • Aged at least 65
  • Blind
  • Disabled

And:

  • Have limited income
  • Have limited resources
  • Be a U.S. citizen or national or one in certain categories of aliens
  • Be a resident of Pennsylvania
  • Is not absent from the country for a full calendar month or 30 consecutive days or more
  • Is not confined to an institution (such as a prison) at government expense
  • Applies for any other cash benefits or payments for which they may be eligible, such as Medicaid

How to Apply for SSI in Pennsylvania

There are several ways to apply for SSI in Pennsylvania, including:

Information You Will Need 

When you apply for Medicaid, you will need to present the following information

  • Proof of age 
  • Proof of state residency, with no requirement regarding how long an individual needs to have lived in Pennsylvania
  • Proof of citizenship, refugee status or lawfully admitted alien
  • Proof of all income sources
  • Proof of living arrangements
  • Medical sources
  • Work history

How To Get Help Applying for Medicaid

For Pennsylvanians who have questions about applying for Medicaid, several agencies and programs can help with the process. These resources can help older Pennsylvanians find the right program for their needs, appeal Medicaid prescription denials and learn how to understand the available benefits.  

Resource 

Contact 

Description 

(800) 772-1213

Visit the website to get information about online services. You can apply for benefits, get useful information, find publications and get answers to FAQs. If you don't have access to the Internet please call the contact number.

(800) 753-8827

This tool helps you or your caregiver identify beneficial long-term services and supports based on your specific needs. If you have any questions or require any assistance, please call the PA Link Call Center.

(800) 274-3258

PHLP's Helpline is the central point of contact for seniors who need help resolving problems with Medicaid, such as coverage or service stoppage or reduction.

Does Medicare Cover Assisted Living in Pennsylvania?

The short answer is that no, Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living in Pennsylvania. Assisted living facilities are considered to be a “residential setting” and not a “clinical setting,” (think nursing homes). While Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of care received in an assisted living community, it does still cover things like approved medications, doctor visits, medical equipment, etc., just like it would if you lived at home.

For more information about when Medicare can be used to pay for senior living in a nursing home, and for Medicare-related resources, see our guide to Nursing Homes in Pennsylvania.

Other Financial Assistance Options for Assisted Living in Pennsylvania

Seniors who are not eligible (due to location, financial situation, or other factors) for other types of financial assistance, do still have some options. See the table below for an overview of some of the most common ways to make Assisted Living affordable.

How to Apply

How It Works

Aid and Attendance

Learn more and apply online at va.gov.

Veterans who receive a VA pension may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a monthly cash allowance that veterans receive in addition to their standard pension amount. The benefit is intended for veterans in need of long-term care services and may be used towards paying for Assisted Living.

Reverse Mortgages

Learn more about your options and how to apply at ftc.gov

If you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for Assisted Living. Reverse mortgages are loans that one can take out against the value of their home, essentially converting some of the home's equity into cash. Reverse mortgage loans do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months of receiving the loan.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Learn more about Long-Term Care Insurance and how to apply for a policy at acl.gov.

Seniors who already have long-term care insurance may be able to use it to pay for Assisted Living. Most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, but it depends on the specific policy terms. Note that older adults who are already in need of Assisted Living will not typically be eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in Pennsylvania

Seniors often have fixed incomes, so it’s important they know about available free or low-cost resources. The following information concerns resources that help with assisted living costs, abusive situations and legal issues.

Resource

Contact

Service

(215) 381-3040

Assisted living for senior veterans, their spouses or survivors is available in one of six veterans' homes in the state operated by the Office for Veterans Affairs. These facilities help with ADLs and other personal needs and provide senior veterans with the chance to be part of a larger community.

(717) 783-1550

Pennsylvania has 64 Area Agencies on Aging offices throughout the state. They provide services for seniors or work with local organizations to ensure those services are present. Area Agencies on Aging work with seniors aged 60 and older, providing services that include tax assistance, legal help, information on assisted living facilities in the state and counseling on various issues. They also offer expert advice on Medicare and Medicaid issues.

(717) 783-8975

LTC ombudsmen fulfill several roles. They act as advocates for seniors in conflict with long-term care facilities. They investigate complaints of abuse and neglect made by seniors or caregivers, and when their investigations are complete, they attempt to negotiate a resolution between the senior and the facility. LTC ombudsmen also advise seniors on billing disputes and applying for Medicare or Medicaid. Ombudsmen can provide information on available resources and educate the broader community about the rights of seniors in LTC communities.

(877) 727-7529

Pennsylvania seniors requiring help with civil law matters can turn to the SeniorLAW Center for assistance. The Center can provide direct representation on some issues and information on problems with housing, exploitation or abuse of seniors, powers of attorney, wills, advanced medical directives and many consumer issues. The Center cannot help with criminal matters, divorce cases or lawsuits.

(800) 692-7462

If you are a low-income senior who needs help paying for some of the costs associated with assisted living, you may be eligible for Medical Assistance and Payment of Long-Term Care Services. The program, designed to help seniors remain in their communities or homes, provides health care benefits, long-term care support and financial assistance if needed. If you are a senior resident of Pennsylvania, you can check your eligibility at the state government's COMPASS website

COVID-19 Rules for Assisted Living in Pennsylvania

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including The Department of Human Services and The Pennsylvania Department of Health. These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 3/8/2022, but since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic, contact your local senior living facility or Area Agency on Aging for more specific and up-to-date information.

Visitation Policies

Rules for Pennsylvania Communities

Are loved ones allowed to visit to provide emotional support?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are relatives allowed to visit for end-of-life care?

Yes

Are residents required to quarantine after visiting with a loved one?

No

Are visitors required to wear PPE (including masks) in order to visit residents?

Yes

Are non-medical contractors (such as hairdressers and entertainers) allowed in senior living facilities?

Yes

Does the state recommend or require that senior living facilities assist families with setting up virtual visit alternatives?

Yes

Are visitors checked for elevated temperatures?

Yes

Are visitors required to answer questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?

Yes

Outings & Social Activities

Rules for Pennsylvania Communities

Are residents allowed to leave (errands, visiting family, etc.) for non-medical reasons?

Yes

Are residents who leave required to quarantine when they return?

No (Conditions Apply)

Are senior living communities required to cancel all group outings?

No

Are residents allowed to eat meals together in a common area?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are residents allowed to gather in common areas for group activites?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

COVID-19 Safety Measures for Staff and Pennsylvania

Rules for Pennsylvania Communities

Are staff members regularly required to do a temperature check?

Yes

Are staff members regularly tested for COVID-19?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are staff members members regularly required to do a health and safety screening, including questions about travel, contact with positive cases, etc?

Yes

Are residents regularly screened for COVID-19 symptoms?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Are residents regularly checked for elevated temperatures?

Yes

Are residents regularly tested for COVID-19?

Yes (Conditions Apply)

Assisted Living Laws and Regulations in Pennsylvania

The Department of Human Services, Bureau of Human Services Licensing maintains rules and regulations governing Assisted Living Residences (ALRs) and Personal Care Homes (PCHs) in Pennsylvania. The state government highly regulates these communities and conducts regular inspections to ensure that facilities follow these regulations.

PENNSYLVANIA LAWS AND REGULATIONS

Licensing Types

In Pennsylvania, there are two types of licensed communities that assist senior adults with activities of daily living: an Assisted Living Residence (ALR) and a Personal Care Home (PCH). These community types are governed by different sets of laws and regulations. While an ALR is required to promote “aging in place” with onsite services such as hospice care, cognitive support, skilled nursing services and more, a PCH is not mandated to offer these supplemental services. See below for other specific regulation differences.

Physical Accommodations:

  • An ALR must meet a specific minimum size for its public spaces and living units, while a PCH does not have size guidelines.
  • No more than two residents can share a living unit in an ALR, while a PCH allows up to four residents to share a unit.

Staffing Requirements:

  • A licensed nurse must be on duty or on call at all times at an ALR, and a registered dietician must be either on staff or under contract. Although a PCH does not have the same regulations, it may still employ nurses and dieticians.
  • Both community types require staff to complete annual training. ALR 16 hours of general training and 3 hours of dementia training. PCH: 12 hours of general training and no dementia training.

Assisted Living Service Plan Requirements

New residents must be medically evaluated at least 60 days before ALR admission. A licensed doctor, physician's assistant or nurse practitioner using a Department-required form must perform the evaluation. If extenuating circumstances are involved, the assessment can be delayed until the senior moves into the ALR.

The evaluation includes a complete health check, including information on allergies, current medications and immunizations they have had recently or in the past. The individual performing the evaluation should also check mobility and ADL requirements.

When a senior has lived in the ALR for 30 days, the facility administrator will reevaluate them. This evaluation is used to create the support plan for the new resident. An appropriate individual appointed by the administrator, such as a registered nurse or licensed partitioning nurse under the guidance of a registered nurse, can perform this reevaluation.

Assisted Living Admission Requirements

Some seniors are prohibited from admission to an ALR. These include seniors who have reported infectious diseases that require isolation or nursing care. Seniors who require 24-hour continuous skilled nursing care are also prohibited. The state licensing agency may grant exceptions to these rules.

Some ALR facilities include a special care unit designed for residents with memory care issues. Proof of memory impairment is required for admission to these units.

Assisted Living Scope of Care

ALRs can provide one of two kinds of core services in Pennsylvania. The first includes an Independent Core Package that provides 24-hour supervision, social activities and help with laundry, grocery shopping and cognitive support. The Enhanced Core Package consists of all services offered in the Independent Package plus assistance with ADLs, transportation when needed, medication administration and helping residents self-administer their prescriptions.

Assisted Living Medicaid Policy

Medicaid or the Aging Waiver Program don't cover room-and-board services in an ALR in Pennsylvania. If an ALR accepts a senior eligible for Social Security Insurance payments, the rent paid by the senior can't exceed their monthly income, less any personal needs expenses.

Assisted Living Facility Requirements

Living requirements for ALR include well-lit interiors with additional markings for visually impaired individuals, handrails, ramps and other accessibility devices. These devices should be in good repair.

ALRs should include a common dining area that provides three meals a day. However, residents can eat in their rooms if they are ill or the ALR offers room service.

Individual rooms should include the following necessities:

  • Fully equipped bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower or tub
  • Exterior locking doors unless they pose a safety risk to the resident
  • Individually controlled thermostats for heat and air conditioning
  • Electrical outlets that support small appliances such as a microwave or a mini-fridge
  • Telephone jack
  • Storage space

Medication Management Regulations

Residents evaluated and approved by the appropriate staff can administer their own medications. These medications must be kept in a locked box in the resident's room, out of the reach of others. Staff can remind residents to take their medication daily or periodically.

For residents who cannot self-administer medication, a licensed staff member or student nurse under the authority of a registered nurse will administer it. 

Staffing Requirements

Direct care staff needs to be always awake and on duty and provide one hour of care to each resident during the day and two hours of care to any senior resident with mobility issues. A licensed nurse must work on site or be on call. ALRs need to work with a registered dietitian to design appropriate meals for residents. The ALR's administrator or director must be present at least 36 working hours a week. 

For every 35 residents in an ALR, at least one staff member trained in first aid, obstructed airway techniques and CPR must always be present.

Staff Training Requirements

All staff should be trained in fire safety and emergency preparedness. Personnel may not provide direct care until they have completed 18 hours of general training, with an additional 16 hours of annual training. All training records and training plans must be available for inspection.

Background Check for Staff in Pennsylvania

Both ALRs and PCHs require criminal history and background checks under Pennsylvania's adult protective services statutes and regulations. The facility must keep proofs of criminal histories and background checks on file.

Requirements for Reporting Abuse

The ALR will inform each resident of their right to lodge complaints of abuse or neglect without the threat of retaliation. The ALR or PCH will publicly display a poster detailing these rights. All residents should understand how to file a complaint.

Any allegation of elder abuse or neglect must be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. A member of the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program will investigate the complaint. The state's hotline number is available 24 hours a day at (800) 490-8505. 

Assisted Living Facilities in Pennsylvania (214)