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Pennsylvania’s Aging Population

The recent closure announcement of Johnston’s personal care facility, the Atrium, is just one of hundreds of personal care facilities that have shut down since the pandemic. Officials from the Pennsylvania Health Care Association or PHCA, and Leading Age PA, a trade association, citing reasons ranging from a lack of funding, to inflation and work force challenges.

The aging population in Pennsylvania is surpassing the working-age population creating a lack of access to care while the gap between reimbursement and actual cost of living or care is widening.

In Gov. Josh Shapiro’s master plan for older adults, he states that Pennsylvania is ranked fifth in the United States in the sheer size of its older population at 3.4 million. The number growing exponentially from 15.4 percent in 2010 to 17.8 percent in 2020.

“At the end of the day it’s reimbursement. Whether that’s medicaid reimbursement or ssi reimbursement, the reimbursement levels in Pennsylvania do not come close to the true cost of care. That creates an access to care crisis in a state with one of the oldest populations in the entire country.”

According to Save Our Seniors, over 400 nursing homes had to close since the pandemic displacing over 18,000 residents. 230 Personal care homes closed displacing even more. But where do residents go once they lose their home?

“Oftentimes, the skilled nursing facilities are at a default settings for folks who don’t have funds or don’t have the social means to be cared for or to live in a healthy way. With the home closures you’re really wondering what’s going to happen with these folks. If we look at affordable housing and the waitlists, we’re talking about seniors who are displaced and I think worst case scenarios is we find them homeless.”

According to the PHCA, once a facility closes, every resident is faced with a unique situation when it comes to their next placement.

“In most cases the facility will help facilitate the discharge of a resident and ultimately help them decide where they go. But that’s not the case for everyone and more often than we’d seen before, family members are having to do that job. The residents themselves are having to do that job.”

The workforce challenges in senior care are just another facet of the ongoing crisis according to Leading Age PA.

“We’re at critical mass now. Something needs to be done. There needs to be funding and it goes beyond funding. We need to build a workforce and the situation we’re in is there aren’t enough people.”

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