PHILADELPHIA — New pants to replace Alex Morisey's tattered khakis will have to wait. There's no cash left for sugar-free cookies either. Even at the month's start, the budget is so bare that Fixodent is a luxury. Now, halfway through it, things are so tight that even a Diet Pepsi is a stretch.

"How many years do I have left?" asks 82-year-old Morisey, who lives in a Philadelphia nursing home. "I want to live those as well as I can. But to some degree, you lose your dignity."

Nursing Homes Living in Poverty

Alex Morisey sits for a portrait in his room Feb. 15 at a nursing home in Philadelphia. 

Nursing Homes Living in Poverty

Alex Morisey listens to music in his room at a nursing home in Philadelphia. For nursing home residents receiving Medicaid, all income is garnished and the person is left to rely on a small subsidy known as a personal needs allowance. The federal government hasn't changed the minimum rate, $30 monthly, since 1987. Pennsylvania’s allowance is $45.

Nursing Homes Living in Poverty

Alex Morisey does his afternoon exercises using a resistance band in his room at a nursing home in Philadelphi. He ended up in a nursing home after a fall and, once here, learned his income would no longer be his. Pennsylvania’s allowance is $45, and after a monthly $20 haircut and $5 tip, a juggling act begins.

Nursing Homes Living in Poverty

Alex Morisey calculates his finances and how much he would have left if he were to buy himself a pair of pants Feb. 15 at a nursing home in Philadelphia. Hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents in the U.S. rely on Medicaid's personal needs allowance as their only source of income.