Senior Care Terms

SeniorLiving.Net works with families everyday that are looking for senior care. If you would like to speak to a Care Advisor to learn more about what type of senior care or senior living would best fit your needs, call (877) 345-1706. Our Care Advisors work with families at no cost to the families so that families can find the care that’s right for them absolutely free.

24-Hour Emergency Response System

Response systems alert staff when a resident needs emergency help. Some are activated by a pull cord located in key areas like bathrooms, living rooms and bedrooms. Other systems work from a pendant a resident wears around their neck or wrist.

ADLs -Activities of Daily Living

Everyday activities such as bathing, grooming, eating, using the bathroom, and getting dressed.

Adult Day Services

Daily programs in a community setting that offer social activities and health-related services. Care is provided during the day and the older adult returns home in the evening.


An administrator is a licensed professional who manages the day-to-day operation of a care community, hospice or home care agency.

Advance Directive

Most commonly known as a “Living Will,” this is a written document that states a person’s health care preferences, and who their decision maker is in the event they have a serious illness or injury that makes them unable to make their own health care decisions.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder named for German physician Alois Alzheimer, who first identified it in 1906. It is a progressive and fatal brain disease for which there is no cure. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.


Ambulatory describes a person’s ability to walk around (i.e. if they are able to “ambulate” and are not confined to a wheelchair or bedridden).

Annual Survey

Nursing care communities that participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid programs are required by law to undergo an annual survey and certification. Surveys typically last between 3 and 5 days and they assesses whether the quality of care needed by residents is being provided. Nursing care communities must be determined to be in substantial compliance with Medicare and Medicaid requirements as well as the state laws.


This allows a resident to remain in the same living environment even as they mentally and physically decline.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is a type of senior care community that typically offers meals, laundry, housekeeping, medication reminders, and assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Assisted living is also referred to as personal care, room and board center, or residential care.

Care Continuum

This term is often used in senior care to describe the range of services a community or provider offers.

Care Plan Meeting

A care plan is a road map of the goals for each resident. Establishes is responsible for each area of a resident’s care. Goals are evaluated at the care plan meeting. For nursing care communities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, a care plan meeting is required at least once every quarter. In an assisted living setting, the frequency is regulated at the individual state level. Families should make every effort to attend these meetings.

Call Light

Nursing care communities, as well as some assisted and independent living communities, utilize a call light system to alert staff when a resident needs assistance. Residents have a cord they pull or push that sets off a light and/or buzzer at the nurses’ station and over their door.

Continuing Care Retirement Community or CCRC

Continuing Care Retirement Communities that that are designed to meet seniors’ health care and housing needs as their needs change over time. Located on one campus, housing typically includes independent living apartments and/or villas, assisted living, Alzheimer’s care, home care and/or private duty services, and long-term care.


The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has the responsibility for oversight for Medicare, Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurances, and several other government health care programs.

Custodial Care

Care is considered custodial when it is care that helps support activities of daily living like cooking, bathing, dressing and more. These activities do not require the skills of a licensed, professional caregiver.


A term often used to describe memory loss. It is a progressive neurological, cognitive, or medical disorder that affects memory, judgment, and cognitive powers.

Discharge Planner

Health care systems utilize a variety of social workers and/or nurses to help plan the discharge needs of patients. Among other duties, they may help patients set up home care services, find a hospice provider or a skilled nursing and rehab center.

Home Care

Home health care falls in to two categories: skilled care delivered in home by a licensed provider or private duty services designed to support independence. Skilled services can include skilled nursing, speech therapy and/or physical therapy. Private duty services can include meal preparations, errands, and other homemaker duties.

Hospice Care

Care and comfort provided to those with a terminal illness and their families. It may include medical, counseling, and social services.

Independent Living

Independent living is a senior living option typically focuses on supportive services such as social activities, transportation and some meals. This can also be referred to as congregate living.


Administer technical nursing procedures in addition to providing a range of health care services, such as medication administration and dressing changes.

Level of Care

Term used to describe the intensity of services being provided by the physician or health care provider.

Long-term Care

A combination of medical care, personal care and social services provided to persons who have lost, or never acquired, some degree of functionality. For senior care, this term generally refers to people who are living in a nursing care community on a long-term basis.


Licensed practical nurses provide care for people who are sick, convalescent, or disabled. They work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses.

Medical Director

In a senior care community, the medical director is the organization’s clinical leader. He or she works in conjunction with the Director of Nursing to ensure quality patient care.


Medicare is a federally administered health insurance program to persons aged 65 and older.

Medicare Part A

Often referred to as the hospital insurance part of Medicare, it covers hospice care, home health care, skilled nursing facilities, and inpatient hospital stays.

Medicare Part B

Also referred to as the medical insurance program for Medicare, it covers doctors’ services, outpatient hospital care, physical and other services such as medical equipment and ambulance service.

Medication Reminders

Medication management can include both reminders and/or assistance. Reminders can be done verbally in person or over the phone. Alarm systems are also available that alert seniors that it is time to take their medications.

Memory Care program

Memory care is a type of program is typically a secure (locked) unit within a nursing care or assisted living community. Staff dedicated to meeting the needs of persons living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.

Nurse Practitioners

Sometimes referred to as physician extenders, these are nurses who typically have a master’s level of education. Their advanced training allows them to provide care in hospitals, nursing care communities, and physician offices. Depending upon the state, they work in collaboration with or under the supervision of a physician.

Personal Care

Personal Care describes tasks such as bathing, dressing, and hair care.

Pressure Sore

Pressure sores are also known as bed sores or pressure ulcers, these areas of injured skin and tissue. They are typically caused by sitting or lying in one position for too long. Pressure reduces the blood supply to the tissues under the skin and a sore can form.

Private Duty

Private Duty refers to non-medical services provided to a client at home. Services may include meal preparation, housekeeping, and other daily activities.

Rehab Services

In senior care, rehab services can refer to the care provided by a skilled home care agency, an outpatient rehab center or a skilled nursing & rehab center (also known as a nursing care community). Rehabilitation services can include a combination of occupational, speech and physical therapy services.

Resident Programming

These are the activities residents have the opportunity to participate in every day. They range from social and recreational to spiritual.

Respite Care

Respite care provides temporary relief for caregivers. It can range from a few hours up to one month. This care is typically provided in a senior care community.


Registered Nurses (RN) have a higher level of education and training than an LPN. They assess pain, evaluate nursing care, administer medications, provide dressing changes and more.

Skilled Care

Skilled care is given to those that require the skills of a licensed professional. Some examples include wound care following a surgery or accident, physical therapy to recover from an injury, speech therapy following a stroke or the administration of IV antibiotics.

Staff-to-Resident Ratios

This ratio is used to evaluate how well-staffed a senior care community is. It can refer to the number of caregivers per staff member for aides, LPNs and RNs.


Therapy can be used to describe occupational, speech and/or physical therapy services. In senior care, they may be provided by a skilled home health agency in the home or in an independent or assisted living community or in a skilled nursing & rehab center.


The turnover rate in a community is a term used in senior living to denote how often staff leaves a community and needs to be replaced. In senior living, it is considered an indicator of quality and continuity of care.

VA Benefits

As part of the aid and attendance benefit, veterans’ sometimes have benefits that cover home care, assisted living, long-term care and hospice.


Wandering is a behavior typical of persons living with Alzheimer’s disease. Often looks aimless but experts believe those who wander may have a goal or purpose in mind (i.e. find their way home or believe it is time to go to work).

Wander Guard

Wander guard is one of a variety of alert systems that may be used to let staff know a resident is attempting to get up from a wheelchair or exit an exterior door.