Glossary of Senior Living Terms
Last updated: January 3, 2013
housing and senior care can open a whole new world to families.
There are different levels of care--depending on your loved ones
needs--and various options, depending on a seniors' health, age and
This helpful 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.
senior living terms have changed over the years and refer to
the glossary below for a definition of each term.
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
industry include CARF (Commission on Accreditation of
Rehabilitation Facilities), CCAC (Continuing Care Accreditation
Commission), and JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs):
Refer 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.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
Passed by Congress in 1980, this law establishes a clear and
comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of
Assisted Living Facilities (ALF):
Assisted living facilities are also referred to as ALFs in the
senior living industry.
Adult Day Care:
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. Participates are usually brought to the
center in the morning and leave in the evening.
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.
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.
The ability to walk freely and independently, not bedridden or
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.
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 healthcare
Is similar to to Independent Living, except that it usually
provides convenience and supportive services such as meals,
housekeeping and transportation.
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 Community.
Continuing Care Retirement Community
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
See Nursing Home
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.
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.
HIPPA (The Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996):
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
HMO (Health Maintenance Organization):
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 individuals 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
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 Insurance:
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 the state to individuals 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 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
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 physician.
Medications Management / Medication Administration:
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
Inability to ambulate, walk around,
and usually bedridden or hospitalized.
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 elderly.
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 an 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 Facility.
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
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.
Graduate trained 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
Registered Nurse (RN):
Therapeutic care for persons
requiring intensive physical, occupational, or speech
See Assisted Living.
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 home.
Find Senior Living Communities
Age-restricted multiunit housing with
self-contained living units for older adults who are able to care
for themselves. Usually no additional services such as meals or
transportation are provided.