Last updated: September 15, 2015
Senior living, senior housing and senior care can open a whole
new world to families. There are different levels of
care--depending on your loved one's needs--and various options,
depending on a senior's health, age and financial status.
The A Place for Mom Senior Living Glossary is designed to give
you a clear understanding of commonly used terms that might come up
during your search for senior housing and care.
Discover how senior
living terms have changed over the years and refer to the
glossary below for a definition of each term.
See Senior Apartments
A seal of approval given by an autonomous governing body to a
community or service provider. To become accredited, the community
or provider must meet specific requirements set by the
accreditation entity and is then generally required to undergo a
thorough review process by a team of evaluators to ensure certain
standards of quality. The accrediting organizations are
independent, not government agencies or regulatory bodies. Some
examples of accreditation bodies for the senior housing and care
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
This term refers to day-to-day activities such as bathing,
eating, grooming, dressing, toileting, administering medication,
moving around and many other self-care or maintenance tasks
associated with daily living. Wikipedia: Activities of Daily Living
Administration on Aging (AOA)
The AoA is an agency of the United States Department of Health
and Human Services. The Administration educates the elderly and
family members about benefits and services available to them.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Passed by Congress in 1980, this law establishes a clear and
comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of
disability. Resources: Wikipedia: Americans with Disabilities Act
Assisted Living Facilities (ALF)
There are over 28,000 assisted living communities in the US
alone. Assisted living is a housing option for seniors who cannot
live independently and need help with medications and daily living
activities, such as bathing, grooming, eating, dressing and going
to the bathroom. Assisted living facilities are referred to as ALFs
in the senior living industry.
Adult Day Care
Adult Day Services offer structured programs with stimulating
social activities, health-related and rehabilitation services for
seniors who are physically or emotionally disabled and need a
protective environment during the day. Participants are usually
brought to the center in the morning and leave in the evening.
Resources: Find adult
day care near you
Aging In Place
A concept that advocates allowing a resident to choose to remain
in his/her home regardless of the physical and/or mental decline
that may occur with the aging process. Resources: Ageinplace.org | Wikipedia: Aging in Place
A progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss
of function and death of nerve cells in several areas of the brain,
leading to loss of mental functions such as memory and learning.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Area Agencies on Aging
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging's primary
mission is to build the capacity of its members to help older
persons and persons with disabilities live with dignity and choices
in their homes and communities for as long as possible. Find your local Area on Aging
Board and Care Homes
Board and care homes typically provide seniors with the same
services available in larger assisted living communities; the
difference is that these facilities are "regular" houses in
residential neighborhoods that are equipped, adapted and staffed to
care for a small number of seniors. The term "board and care home"
is most commonly used in California.
In other states, these homes may go by other names including "residential care homes" or "group homes."
More about Board & Care Homes
65.7 million caregivers make up 29% of the U.S. adult population
providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. The word
"caregiver" refers to the primary person in charge of caring for an
individual with special needs, usually associated with Alzheimer's
disease. This person is usually a family member or designated
Congregate housing is similar to Independent Living, except that
it usually offers supportive services such as meals, housekeeping
A court-appointed, legal representative of a person no longer
capable of taking care of their financial and legal
Continuum of Care
Full spectrum of care available at Continuing Care Retirement
Communities which may include Independent Living, Assisted Living,
Nursing Care, Home Health, Home Care, and Home and Community Based
Services. Also see Continuing Care Retirement
Continuing Care Retirement
A community that offers several levels of assistance, including
independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. These
communities usually offer long-term contracts or written agreements
between the resident and the community which offer a continuum of
housing, services and health care system, usually all on one campus
A convalescent home is generally where a patient can recover
from an illness or injury with short-term care and then return
The severe loss of intellectual functions, such as thinking,
remembering and reasoning. Dementia is not a disease itself but a
group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or
conditions. Symptoms may include changes in personality, mood and
behavior. Dementia is irreversible when cause by disease or injury,
but may be reversible when caused by drugs, alcohol, depression or
hormone and vitamin imbalances.
Dementiaville is the world's first and only village for dementia
Learning From Dementiaville, a Pioneering Dementia Care
Doll therapy is a form of Alzheimer's therapy where patients can
use dolls that symbolize people. Resources: Pros and Cons of Doll Therapy
Durable Power of Attorney
Designates any proficient adult(s) to see to an individual's
affairs should they become either mentally or physically
incapacitated. It is imperative to keep good, clear records of such
agreements and recommended that you have a lawyer draft any durable
power of attorney.
Green House Project
The Green House Project is a non-profit focusing on
environmentally-friendly and sustainable assisted living hosing.
Green House Project: The Next Big Thing in Long-Term Care
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
This act states the requirements that a long term care policy
must follow in order that the premiums paid may be deducted as
medical expenses and benefits not paid be considered as taxable
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
An organized system for providing comprehensive health care in a
specific geographic area to a voluntarily enrolled group of
Home Health Care
Provision of medical and nursing services from licensed
providers and professionals in an individual's own home.
Philosophy and approach to providing comfort and care at end of
life rather than providing heroic lifesaving measures. Hospice
care can include medical, counseling and social services. Most
hospice care is in-home, while specialized hospices or hospitals
also provide these services.
Independent living is when an elderly person still has the
physical and mental capacity to live independently but wants
companionship from others his/her age. Independent living offer
specific services and amenities that cater to senior citizens and
promote active, healthy senior lifestyles for the golden years.
Independent living is not an option for someone who cannot care for
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
Unlike Activities of Daily Living, which are necessary for
fundamental functioning, IADLs are not necessary and are the
activities that let an individual live independently in a
community, such as transportation and paying bills.
Wikipedia: Instrumental ADLS
Life Care Community
A Continuing Care Retirement Community that offers an insurance
type contract and provides all levels of care. It often includes
payment for acute car and physician visits. Little or no change is
made in monthly fees, regardless of the level of medical care
required by the resident. The only fees that might change are the
actual cost of living expenses.
A written, legal document that states the wishes of an
individual regarding life saving devices and procedures in the
event of a terminal illness or injury and is no longer competent
and able to make decisions on their own.
Long Term Care
Care given in the form of medical and support services to
someone who has lost some or all of their capacity to function due
to an illness or disability.
Long Term Care Ombudsman
A U.S. state-appointed official tasked with ensuring an
organization or facility remains accountable to the public who is
outside of its typical chain of command. - Locate
an Ombudsman in Your State | The National
Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care
Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI)
Insurance that pays for a succession of care giving services for
the elderly or chronically ill. This care may be provided in a
community or in an individual's home with a nurse or aide.
Is the partnership of insurance and a health care delivery
system. The goal is to coordinate all health care services received
to maximize benefits and minimize costs. Managed care plans use
their own network of health care providers and a system of prior
approval from a primary care doctor to achieve this goal. Providers
include: specialists, hospitals skilled nursing facilities,
therapists and home health care agencies.
Public assistance funded by individual states in the U.S. for
people who are unable to pay for health care. Medicaid can only be
accessed when all other assets and funds are depleted. There are
income eligibility criteria that must be met to qualify.
A U.S. federal health insurance program for people 65 years and
older and those with disabilities.
A staff medical director assumes overall responsibility for the
formulation and implementation of all policies related to medical
care. The medical director also coordinates with an individual's
personal physician to ensure that the facility delivers the care
that is prescribed. In some instances, the medical director may be
a resident's primary physician.
Medication Management / Medication Administration
Formalized procedure with a written set of rules for the
management of self-administered medicine. A program may include
management of the timing and dosage for residents in assisted
living, and could include coordination with a resident's personal
Medigap Insurance / Medicare Supplemental Insurance
Private health insurance policies that supplement Medicare
coverage, covering health care costs above those covered by
Medicare Part A or Part B. Does not provide benefits for long term
care, covering primarily hospital and doctor bills.
Montessori Method of Alzheimer's
This therapy for dementia involves creating lessons and
activities specifically designed to engage the senses.
Status of ownership and/or operation characterized by government
by community-based boards of trustees who are all volunteers. Board
members donate their time and talents to ensure that a
not-for-profit organization's approach to caring for older people
responds to local needs. Not-for-profit homes and services turn any
surplus income back into improving or expanding services for their
clients or residents. Not-for-profits sometimes interact with
Congress and federal agencies to further causes that serve the
Provides personal care to residents, including bathing, dressing
and toileting. Must be trained, tested and certified to provide
care in nursing facilities that participate in the Medicare and
Medicaid programs. Nurse assistants typically work under the
supervision of a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse.
Facility licensed by the state that provides 24-hour nursing
care, room and board, and activities for convalescent residents and
those with chronic and/or long-term care illnesses. One step below
hospital acute care. Regular medical supervision and rehabilitation
therapy are mandated to be available, and nursing homes are
eligible to participate in the Medicaid program. May be referred to
as Nursing Facility or Convalescent Home. See also Skilled Nursing
A creative activity prescribed for its effect in promoting
recovery or rehabilitation. This is done to help individuals
relearn activities of daily living and is generally administered by
a licensed therapist.
An area of health care that focuses on providing pain relief and
preventing chronic suffering for patients. The goal of palliative
care is to improve the quality of life in all areas of a
patient's life including physical, emotional, spiritual and social
concerns that arise with advanced illness.
Person-Centered Assisted Living or Dementia Care
The domains of the operational framework of person-centered
assisted living include:
- Person-centered core values of personhood, respect and dignity,
autonomy, choice and independence, and privacy
- Relationships and a sense of belonging (community)
- Governance (ownership, board of directors)
- Workforce practices
- Meaningful life and engagement
Purpose Built Community
Purpose built communities are tailored to individual community
needs. The model is run by a non-profit, Purpose
The treatment of disease or injury, by physical and mechanical
means (as massage, regulated exercise, water, light, heat, and
electricity.) Physical therapists plan and administer prescribed
physical therapy treatment programs for residents to help restore
their function and strength.
Registered Nurse (RN)
A Registered Nurse is a nurse who has both passed a state board
examination and is licensed by a state agency to practice nursing.
A minimum of two years of college is required in addition to
passage of the state exams. The RN plans for resident care by
assessing resident needs, developing and monitoring care plans in
conjunction with physicians, as well as executing highly technical,
skilled nursing treatments.
Therapeutic care for persons requiring intensive physical,
occupational, or speech therapy.
Reminiscence therapy is defined by the American Psychological
Association as "the use of life histories to improve psychological
well-being. Wikipedia: Reminiscence therapy
Legal rights granted by the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law, which
requires nursing homes to promote and protect the rights of each
resident. Specific rights vary by state, but include dignity,
medical privacy, and visitation rights.
Residential care homes offer personalized service to small
groups of adults. These homes provide lodging, meal services and
assistance with daily living activities. Other terms include adult
family homes, board and care homes, or personal care homes.
Resources: Find a
residential care home near you
Temporary relief from duties for caregivers, ranging from
several hours to days. May be provided in-home or in a residential
care setting such as an assisted living facility or nursing
The Sandwich generation refers to those who care for their aging
parents while caring their own children. Wikipedia: Sandwich Generation
Senior apartments refer to age-restricted multi-unit housing
with self-contained living units for older adults, usually aged 55+
who are able to care for themselves. Senior apartments do not offer
additional services such as meals or transportation. Find Senior
Apartments Near You
Senior Move Manager
Senior Move Managers are professionals specializing in helping
with the transition from a long-time home into senior living. Their
membership organization is the National
Association of Senior Move Managers.
Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory integration therapy treats Sensory Integration Disorder
(also called Sensory Processing Disorder), a condition when we our
sensory inputs are not processed correctly.
University-Based Retirement Community (UBRC)
These are senior communities that allow older adults to pursue
Read more here.
Universal Design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce
buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible
to older people, people without disabilities, and people with
Veteran's Aid and Attendance (VA Benefits)
A supplemental income provided by the Department of Veteran's
Affairs available to veterans and their spouses. The veteran must
have served at least one day during wartime. Resources:
Guide to Using VA Benefits for Assisted Living | VA.gov