Glossary of Senior Living Terms

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slm6028Depending on age, health and financial status, a senior’s need for assistance with health care and daily tasks can vary widely. Fortunately, Lutheran Sunset Ministries offers many different senior housing alternatives designed to address different levels of need. The following glossary is intended to acquaint you with some commonly-used senior housing terms. We hope you find this glossary helpful as you navigate the new opportunities and experiences that senior living presents.

A seal of approval given by an autonomous governing body to a community or service provider. To become accredited, the facility 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.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Day-to-day activities such as bathing, eating, grooming, dressing, toileting and administering medication.

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.

Adult Day Care
Structured programs with stimulating social, health-related and rehabilitation activities and 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.

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.

Ambulatory Care
The ability to walk freely and independently, not bedridden or hospitalized.

Assisted Living
Assisted living is a housing option for seniors who cannot live independently and need help with medications and daily living activities.

Congregate Housing
See Independent Living (may also be referred to as Supportive Housing).

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
A community that offers several levels of assistance, including independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. These communities offer a continuum of housing, services and health care, usually all on one campus or site.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
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 from licensed providers and professionals in an individual’s own home.

Hospice Care
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.

Independent Living
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 offers specific services and amenities that cater to senior citizens and promote active, healthy senior lifestyles for the golden years.

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.

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 (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.

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 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.

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.

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 physician.

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.

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.

Nursing Home or Health Center
A community (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. Regular medical supervision and rehabilitation therapy are mandated to be available, and they are eligible to participate in the Medicaid program.

Occupational Therapy
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.

Physical Therapy
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.

Therapeutic care for persons requiring intensive physical, occupational or speech therapy.

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 community or health center.

Senior Apartments
Age restricted multi-unit housing with self-contained living units for older adults who are able to care for themselves.

Have additional questions? Please visit and click on “Contact” to submit your request for information.

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