Our Glossary can help you learn about commonly used terms and the different senior housing and care choices available.
Accreditation: A seal of approval given by a governing body to a housing and/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 not government agencies or regulatory bodies. Examples of some accreditation bodies for the senior housing and care industry include CCAC (Continuing Care Accreditation Commission), CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations).
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Everyday activities such as bathing, grooming, eating, toileting, and dressing.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Law passed by Congress in 1980, establishing a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability.
Administrator: Generally, a licensed professional who manages the day-to-day operation of a care facility such as a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Adult Day Care: Daily structured programs in a community setting with activities and health-related and rehabilitation services to elderly who are physically or emotionally disabled and need a protective environment. This care is provided for during the day, the individual returning home for the evening.
Aging in Place: Concept which advocates allowing a resident to choose to remain in his/her living environment despite the physical and or mental decline that may occur with the aging process of aging.
Alzheimer’s: Degenerative age-related disease that impairs an individual’s cognitive ability. Symptoms may include forgetfulness, wandering, and inability to recognize others. The disease is caused by neuron dysfunction and death in specific brain regions responsible for cognitive functions. Both genetic and environmental factors likely play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Click here to learn more.
Ambulatory: Describes ability to ambulate, walk around, not bedridden or hospitalized.
Assisted Living: In general, state-licensed program offered at a residential community with services that include meals, laundry, housekeeping, medication reminders, and assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). The exact definition will vary from state to state, and a few states do not license assisted living facilities. Generally regarded as one to two steps below skilled nursing in level of care. Approximately 90 percent of the country’s assisted living services are paid for with private funds, although some states have adopted Medicaid waiver programs. Might also be referred to as Personal Care, Board and Care, Residential Care, Boarding Home, etc., although some states differentiate between their definition of “Assisted Living” and these other terms (e.g., Washington state recognizes and licenses “Assisted Living” facilities as well as “Boarding Homes”; Although licensed by the State of Washington, a Boarding Home does not meet the higher physical plant and service requirements necessary to be considered an Assisted Living facility) .
Charge Nurse: An RN or LPN who is responsible for the supervision of a unit within a nursing facility. The charge nurse schedules and supervises nursing staff and provides care to facility residents.
Congregate Housing: See Independent Living (may be also referred to as Supportive Housing).
Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC): Housing planned and operated to provide a continuum of accommodations and services for seniors including, but not limited to, independent living, congregate housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. A CCRC resident contract often involves either an entry fee or buy-in fee in addition to the monthly service charges, which may change according to the medical services required. Entry fees may be partially or fully refundable. The fee is used primarily as a method of privately financing the development of the project and for payment for future healthcare. CCRCs are typically licensed by the state. See also Life Care Community.
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.
Convalescent Home: See Nursing Home.
Dementia: Progressive neurological, cognitive, or medical disorder that affects memory, judgment, and cognitive powers.
Developmental Disability (DD): Affliction characterized by chronic physical and mental disabilities, which may include: cerebral palsy, retardation, thyroid problems, seizures, quadriplegia.
Director of Nursing (DON): A DON oversees all nursing staff in a nursing home, and is responsible for formulating nursing policies and monitoring the quality of care delivered, as well as the facility’s compliance with federal and state regulations pertaining to nursing care.
HMO: A Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) is an organized system for providing comprehensive health care in a specific geographic area to a voluntarily enrolled group of members.
Home Health Care: Provision of medical and nursing services in the individual’s home by a licensed provider.
Hospice Care: Care and comfort measures provided to those with a terminal illness and their families- it can include medical, counseling, and social services. Most hospice care is furnished in-home, while specialized hospices or hospitals also provide this service.
Independent Living: Multi-unit senior housing development that may provide supportive services such as meals, housekeeping, social activities, and transportation (Congregate Housing, Supportive Housing, Retirement Community). Independent Living typically encourages socialization by provision of meals in a central dining area and scheduled social programs. May also be used to describe housing with few or no services (Senior Apartment).
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs): Day-to-day tasks such as preparing meals, shopping, managing money, taking medication, and housekeeping.
Kitchenette: Each facility may have its own definition of a kitchenette, but generally one includes a sink, cabinet space, and a mini-refrigerator, maybe a microwave. In contrast, a full kitchen would usually have a burner unit, sink, cabinets, full-size refrigerator, and possibly a microwave or stove.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): LPNs are 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. One year of post high school education and passage of a state licensing exam is required.
Life Care Community: A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) which offers an insurance type contract and provides all levels of care. It often includes payment for acute care and physician’s visits. Little or no change is made in the monthly fee, regardless of the level of medical care required by the resident, except for cost of living increases.
Long-Term Care: Provision of services to persons of any age who are afflicted with chronic health impairments.
Long-term Care Insurance: Privately issued insurance policy which covers the cost of nursing home care, assisted living, and home health care. Premiums are based on age, health, length of deductible period, amount paid, and duration of benefits. Currently pays only two percent of national nursing home costs.
Managed Care: There is currently no standard definition of managed care, but it can best be described as a combination of insurance and a health care delivery system. The basic goal of managed care 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 in order to achieve this goal. Providers include: specialists, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, therapists, and home health care agencies.
Medicaid: A jointly funded medical financial Federal-State health insurance assistance program, offering benefits to individuals with limited financial resources, the disabled, and the elderly. There are income eligibility criteria which must be met to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid accounts for about 52 percent of the nation’s care costs, and is the source of payment for almost 70 percent of residents in nursing homes. The person must have exhausted nearly all assets and be in a nursing facility that participates in this program. Medicaid can reimburse Nursing Facilities for the long-term care of qualifying seniors, and in some states, Medicaid pays for Assisted Living care through Medicaid waivers.
Medicare: Nationwide medical insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration for individuals 65 and over and certain disabled people, regardless of income. Provides for hospital and nursing facility care (Part A) and physician services, therapies, and home health care (Part B).
Medical Director: 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.
Medications Management / Medication Administration: Formalized procedure with a written set of rules for the management of self-administered medicine, as in an assisted living setting. A program may include management of the timing and dosage for residents, and could include coordination with a resident’s personal physician. The resident must take the medication him or herself. For instance, the facility can remind the resident that she needs to give herself the medicine injection, but the facility cannot perform the actual injection itself.
Medigap 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.
Non-Ambulatory: Inability to ambulate, walk around, and usually bedridden or hospitalized.
Not-for-Profit: 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. Many not-for-profit organizations are often associated with religious denominations and fraternal groups. Not-for-profits may also interact with Congress and federal agencies to further causes that serve the elderly.
Nurse Assistant: A Nurse Assistant provides the most 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 work under the supervision of an Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse.
Nursing Home: 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. Click here to learn more.
Occupational Therapy: Process to help individuals relearn activities of daily living, generally administered by a licensed therapist.
Physical Therapy: Process that includes individualized programs of exercise to improve physical mobility, often administered following a stroke, fall, or accident. Physical therapists plan and administer prescribed physical therapy treatment programs for residents 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. 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. A minimum of two years of college is required in addition to passage of the state exams.
Rehabilitation: Therapeutic care for persons requiring intensive physical, occupational, or speech therapy.
Residential Care: See Assisted Living.
Respite Care: 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.
Senior Apartment: 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.