Pennsylvania government makes it difficult to check up on assisted-living facilities, also known here as personal-care homes. Unlike other states, it does not post complaints and violations online. But if you're considering placing a relative in one, here are some things you can do to investigate its history.

Write AND call the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare for all violation reports. Because the department keeps other records - not released to the public - that sometimes contain important information missing from the written reports, be sure to talk to a regulator on the phone.

For Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia Counties, contact the Southeastern Pennsylvania regional office:

Nancy Ringo, licensing director

1001 Sterigere St.

Room 161, Building 2

Norristown State Hospital

Norristown, Pa. 19401

Phone: 610-270-1137 or 1-866-711-4115.

Check your county courthouse prothonotary's office for lawsuits against the facility, keeping in mind that allegations are not proof.

Call your local long-term-care ombudsman's office about its experiences with the home. The ombudsmen are federally funded monitors that investigate complaints.

Philadelphia (Center City, North, South, West): 215-545-5724

Philadelphia (Northeast, Northwest): 215-843-0304

Bucks: 215-348-0510

Chester: 610-344-6350

Delaware: 610-490-1300

Montgomery: 610-278-3600

Understand the differences between nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Unlike for nursing homes, there are no federal standards for assisted-living facilities. Personal-care homes do not offer the same level of skilled care as nursing homes, though they may offer more autonomy.

Surf the Internet for more information:

Pennsylvania welfare department's personal-care site: www.dpw.state.pa.us/Disable/

PersonalCareAssistedLiving

Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living: www.ccal.org

Pennsylvania Department of Aging PCH Resident Rights:

lib/aging/Know_Your_Rights_as_

a_Personal_Care_Home_Resident.pdf

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