Senior and Nurse
December 28, 2023

Safety First in Pennsylvania Assisted Living Facilities

The Senior Care Experts at Ecumenical Retirement Community

When it comes to residents of Pennsylvania assisted living facilities and personal care communities, safety is of the utmost importance. That’s why state licensing provides the basis for protecting the health, safety and well-being of residents. The best assisted living communities and personal care homes build on this foundation with comprehensive measures that cover facility, fire and disaster safety as well as resident health and well-being.

Here are a few of the safety features found in Pennsylvania assisted living residences and personal care communities:

Facility safety

Keeping residents safe means limiting the number of residents in each bedroom to no more than two. The room must be designed to accommodate the comfortable use of assistive devices, wheelchairs, walkers, special furniture or oxygen equipment and to allow for rolling beds to be maneuvered. Each unit must be equipped with an emergency notification system.

Fire safety

A comprehensive fire safety plan is critical in assisted living facilities and personal care homes to allow for residents who may have difficulty with vision, hearing or mobility or have cognitive issues and need extra help getting to safety. Smoke detectors and signaling devices alert residents to danger. Fire extinguishers are readily available for staff to use on small, manageable fires.

In the event of an emergency evacuation, evacuation diagrams help everyone in the building know where to go during an emergency, including a designated fire safe area where those with mobility needs can await assistance. To ensure a quick escape if necessary, passageways need to be kept clear at all times and magnetic lock doors must immediately unlock and open easily upon receiving a signal from an activated fire alarm system. Regular drills help to keep staff and residents prepared.

Disaster safety

Natural disasters can cause flooding and loss of power. Pennsylvania assisted living facilities and personal care homes must demonstrate their preparedness by creating evacuation plans and submitting them annually to their local emergency management agency. Provisions include at least a 3-day emergency supply of food and water for residents and alternate means to meet residents’ needs on a temporary basis. In the event of an evacuation, the assisted living facility or personal care home must also have access to transportation to move residents out of harm’s way. To ensure the safety of residents, guests and staff, the assisted living facility or personal care community team must be trained in emergency response.

Health and well-being

Pennsylvania assisted living facilities and personal care homes also prioritize residents’ health and well-being. This begins with assessing a resident’s needs and developing a support plan. Regulations also establish who may provide support. For example, if a resident needs assistance with medication, only a licensed professional or a staff person who has completed a Department of Health Services-approved medication administration course that includes passing the Department’s performance-based competency test may help.

Staff readiness

Staff preparedness in the event of an emergency is vital. Regulations establish the minimum number of hours the administrator must be onsite, how many service hours are required from direct care staff and at what times of day they must be provided. Pennsylvania assisted living facilities must have a licensed nurse available at all times and a dietician who can provide for any special dietary needs of a resident. Personnel trained in first aid and certified in obstructed airway techniques and CPR must always be present in the facility.

Pennsylvania assisted living facilities vs. personal care homes

It is important to note that in Pennsylvania, there is a difference between assisted living residences and personal care homes like Ecumenical Retirement Community. They have many similar licensing requirements designed to help protect residents’ safety and well-being. However, Pennsylvania assisted living facilities provide supplemental health care similar to nursing homes, whereas personal care homes support residents who need some assistance (such as with dressing, bathing and meals) but do not need around-the-clock skilled nursing.

Safety is paramount at Ecumenical Retirement Community

At Ecumenical Retirement Community, we take the safety of our residents, staff and guests very seriously. Integrated into our beautiful campus are features designed to help our residents sustain their independence as much as possible. Level thresholds, ramps, handrails along hallways, spacious corridors, accessible walk-in showers, bathroom grab bars and effective lighting can reduce falls for our residents with mobility or vision challenges. Emergency call systems are conveniently located throughout the building (including public restrooms) so a call for help is only a moment away. And we offer convenient flu clinics to help residents stay healthy.

Safety Success Story

Our safety committee reviews strategies for eliminating hazards, infection control and co-worker safety education and training. Over the past year, the team had identified parking lot safety as a priority and followed through on a successful plan to ensure resident safety while walking on campus. Actions included:

  • Marking safety walkways and trails;
  • Repairing and repaving walking areas that were damaged by the growth of tree roots;
  • Adding reflector boundary markers along the walking path;
  • Adding stop and speed limit signage in key parking lot locations; and
  • Adding crosswalks to identify resident walking areas to drivers.

The plan which began as a parking lot safety project grew into a campus beautification project. It now includes several exercise/fitness stations along the safety walk, a bocce court, a remodeled pond area with a pavilion and a butterfly garden.

We invite you to discover more ways we care for our residents’ health, safety and well-being by scheduling a tour of our Harrisburg, PA campus.

Ecumenical Retirement Community is an all-rental retirement community providing independent living, personal care and memory care services. We help residents live actively and affordably, with a variety of available apartment styles and customized pricing for your level of care and preferences. No buy-in required! Contact us today to learn more.

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