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The Pennsylvania LIFE Program May be an Viable Alternative to a Nursing Home

Nursing homes are eschewed by seniors for a variety of reasons, including the surrendering of personal independence, the financial cost, and the perception that nursing homes are “the end of the line.” However, in the state of Pennsylvania, about 400 Philadelphians are taking a novel approach to nursing home care. Living Independently for Elders, or LIFE, has partnered with the St. Agnes Continuing Care Center to provide comprehensive care for older individuals in what many call a “nursing home without walls.”

For elderly individuals who participate in the LIFE-St. Agnes Continuing Care Center program, a full spectrum of home care services are provided, including adult day care at a day center (transportation included), medical (including vision and hearing) and skilled nursing care, meal plans, home-delivered meals, physical therapy, psychiatric counseling, pastoral care, caregiver respite, transportation, housekeeping, personal emergency response systems, prostheses, and personal care (e.g., bathing). These services are available 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. LIFE is based on the national All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly program, which aims to maintain the independence of elderly individuals living in their homes for as long as possible.

In order to qualify for either of the two LIFE programs operating in the city of Philadelphia, the applicant must first be assessed and deemed as requiring nursing home care. The applicant must also be 55 years of age or older and live in the service area. At that point, a team of LIFE nurses, physicians, and other health professionals will create a personalized home care plan for the person. A LIFE physician will become the applicant’s primary care provider, and payments for the program will be paid out monthly from Medicare and Medicaid.

Private applicants can also apply for and take advantage of the LIFE program’s services; their payments will be (on average) a total of $4,257 per month (in essence, the amount that Medicare would pay). While this sum is generally more than what is typically expected for a non-residential skilled nursing care program, it is still less than what a typical nursing home would charge. Of course, if the LIFE program participant spends almost all of his/her assets paying for the program, he/she then becomes eligible for Medicaid coverage.

In the city of Pittsburgh, there are two comprehensive LIFE programs, called LIFE Pittsburgh and Community LIFE. These programs have about 500 participants. The Pittsburgh programs are especially geared towards lower-income individuals who have serious health problems and require home care as well as some adult day care. These programs are also intended for individuals who are 60 years of age and older.

More information about Pennsylvania’s LIFE program may be obtained by calling 215-573-7200. The phone number for St. Agnes is 215-339-4747.

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