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Glossary of Senior housing and Memory support terms

The following glossary is intended to acquaint you with some commonly used senior housing terms, and to help you understand some of the available senior housing and senior care choices.


Seal of approval given by an autonomous governing body to a community or service provider.

Accredited Facility
Senior care facility such as a nursing home or assisted living facility that meets the standards of care set by third party organizations such as the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO).

Activity Director
Person in charge of planning group activities such as singing and art projects for residents of long-term care facilities.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Everyday functions and activities that a senior may require assistance with. These include dressing, eating, personal hygiene and transferring. Many insurance policies use the inability to perform a certain number of ADLs (e.g.: 2 of 6) to determine eligibility for benefits.

Acute Care
Care that is provided in a medical setting such as a hospital, intensive care unit or emergency care facility. Also known as hospital care.

Licensed professional who undertakes the duty of managing the day-to-day operations of a care community, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Adult Day Care
Structured programs with social activities and health-related and rehabilitation services provided in a safe setting during regular business hours. Some adult day care centers may also operate on weekends.

Advance Directive
Legal document providing information relating to the type of medical treatment that should be performed if your life is in danger and you are unable to communicate.

Aging in Place
Concept that advocates allowing a resident to remain in his/her living environment, regardless of the physical or mental decline that may occur with aging.

Alzheimer's Disease
The most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, characterized by loss of function and death of nerve cells in several brain areas, leading to loss of memory and learning.

The ability to walk freely and independently. Not bedridden or hospitalized on a long-term basis.

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.

Evaluation, usually performed by a physician, of a person's mental, emotional and social capabilities.

Assisted Living
Special combination of housing, personalized supportive services and health care designed to meet the needs — both scheduled and unscheduled — of those who need help with daily activities.

Assistive Device
Physical aid such as a cane, walker, wheelchair or hearing aid.

Healthcare professional specializing in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring disorders of the auditory and vestibular system portions of the ear.

Board and Care Home
Small or mid-sized residential care home that offers meals, and includes some assistance with activities of daily living, but not skilled nursing. Rooms may be shared or private and depending upon licensing, a Board and Care Home might serve only seniors or people with disabilities or chronic psychiatric problems.

Primary person in charge of caring for an individual, usually a family member or a designated healthcare professional.

Case Management
Formal services planned by health care professionals.

Typically a priest, pastor, rabbi or other member of the clergy offering spiritual counseling to patients, families & staff.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
Senior community that offers several kinds of residences, including independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. CCRCs usually provide a written agreement or long-term contract between the resident (frequently lasting the term of the resident's lifetime) and the community, which offers a continuum of housing, services and health care, commonly all on one campus or site.

Convalescent Home
See nursing home.

Custodial Care
Non-medical care that helps individuals with his or her activities of daily living, preparation of special diets and self-administration of medication not requiring constant attention of medical personnel. Providers of custodial care are not required to undergo medical training.

The loss of intellectual functions (thinking, remembering, reasoning) of sufficient severity to interfere with a person's daily functioning. Not a disease itself, demential is rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or conditions. Symptoms may also include changes in personality, mood and behavior. Dementia is irreversible when caused by disease or injury, but may be reversible when caused by drugs, alcohol, depression, or imbalances of hormones or vitamins.

Developmental Disability (DD)
Affliction characterized by chronic physical and mental disabilities, which may include cerebral palsy, retardation, thyroid problems,seizures and quadriplegia.

Director of Nursing (DON)
Healthcare professional that oversees the nursing staff and is responsible for formulating nursing policies and monitoring the quality of care. The DON is also responsible for the community's compliance with federal and state nursing care regulations.

Elder Care
Broad term that describes senior care services such as assisted living, adult day care, nursing care, hospice, and home care.

Functional Impairment
Requiring assistance with one or more personal care services including, but not limited to, bathing, dressing and undressing, meal preparation and clean up, grooming and toileting.

Geriatric Care Manager
Healthcare professional trained to assess one's care requirements, create a plan of care and to arrange or recommend necessary services.

The scientific study of the biological, psychological and social effects of aging.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
Organized system for providing comprehensive health care in a specific geographic area to a voluntarily enrolled group of members.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996)
Law outlining the requirements a long-term care insurance policy must follow in order that paid premiums be deducted as medical expenses and unpaid benefits be considered taxable income. This act also has stipulations regarding privacy of medical information.

Home Health Care
Provision of medical and nursing services in the individual's home by a licensed provider. Medicare can cover this care, if it meets certain guidelines regarding a recent hospital stay.

Care program that provides palliative and supportive services to terminally ill patients and their families in the form of physical, social and spiritual care.

Independent Living
Senior community with a residential living setting for seniors who require minimal or no extra assistance, this independent lifestyle may or may not provide hospitality or supportive services.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Nurses trained to administer technical nursing procedures, as well as provide a range of health care services, such as administration of medication and changing of dressings.

Living Will
Written document stating, in advance, an individual's wishes concerning the use of life-saving devices and procedures in the event of terminal illness or injury, should the individual no longer be competent.

Long-Term Care
Broad term that describes care given in the form of medical and support services to people who, due to illness or injury, have lost some or all of their capacity to function without assistance.

Long-Term Care Insurance
Insurance that pays for a succession of caregiving services administered by a nurse or aide to the chronically ill and provided in a community or the individual's home.

Managed Care
Partnership between an insurance provider and a health care system, in place to coordinate all care services received in order to maximize benefits and minimize costs. Managed care plans use their own network of health care providers and require approvals prior to receiving services.

Medical Director
Responsible for the formulation and implementation of all policies related to medical care provided by the community. This person ensures the community delivers the prescribed care by coordinating care services with residents' personal physicians. In some instances, the medical director may be resident's primary physician.

United States government health insurance program for eligible individuals and families with low income and resources. Income eligibility criteria must be met to qualify for Medicaid, which accounts for about 52 percent of the nation's care costs. Medicaid is a state administered program and each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services.

United States government health insurance program for individuals aged 65 and older, or for individuals who meet other special criteria. It also provides for hospital and skilled nursing care (called Medicare Part A) and physician services, therapies and home health care (called Medicare Part B).

Medication Management
Formalized procedure for the management of self-administered medicine, and may include written rules regarding timing, dosage and coordination with a resident's personal physician.

Private health insurance used to pay costs not covered by Medicare, such as deductibles and co-insurance.

Memory Care
Specialized programs dedicated to caring for patients needing memory care for dementia, Alzheimer's or other cognitive impairments. Usually services and amenities are on site, with group activities and events included.

Inability to walk independently. Usually bedridden or hospitalized.

Nursing Home
Provides 24-hour skilled care for residents who generally rely on assistance for most or all daily activities (such as bathing, dressing and toileting). One step below hospital acute care, state-licensed nursing homes are mandated to make regular medical supervision and rehabilitation therapy available, and are eligible to participate in the Medicaid program.

Occupational Therapy
Therapy based on the engagement in meaningful activities of daily life, especially to enable or encourage participation in such activities in spite of impairments or limitations in physical or mental functions.

Government appointee who investigates complaints by private persons against the government. In a long-term care facility this person helps keep residents and their families informed of their rights and resolve complaints against the facility and/or staff.

Palliative Care
Any form of medical care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of disease symptoms, rather than striving to halt, delay, or reverse progression of the disease itself or to provide a cure. The goal is to prevent and relieve suffering and to improve quality of life for people facing serious, complex and/or terminal illnesses.

Physical Therapy
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 treatments for patients to help restore their function and strength.

Registered Nurse (RN)
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 treatments.

Therapeutic care for individuals requiring intensive physical, occupational or speech therapy, provided to restore them to a former capacity.
Respite Care
Services that provide caregivers with temporary relief from tasks associated with caregiving (e.g., home care services, short nursing home stays, adult day care).

Skilled Nursing Care
Level of care that includes services that can only be performed safely and correctly by a licensed nurse (either a registered nurse, RN or a licensed practical nurse LPN.

Support Group
Facilitated gathering of caregivers, family, friends or others affected by a disease or condition for the purpose of discussing issues related to the disease.

To move a resident (or loved one) from one place to another — from the bed to a wheelchair, or from assisted living to skilled care.

Transitional Care
Type of care designed for those who are being discharged from an acute care situation, such as a hospital stay, but are not quite ready to return to their home. Short-term in nature, this care may be specialized for specific conditions and also includes rehabilitative services.



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