Defining Senior Living Terms for Family Members

Defining Senior Living Terms for Family Members

Many families are beginning the search for a senior living solution for a loved one online. It allows them to self-educate and gain valuable insight before calling a community. While it is convenient, it has its own challenges. One is the often-confusing language and unfamiliar senior living terms and acronyms.

Phrases like aging in place and activities of daily living are unfamiliar to people who haven’t been through this process before. It can leave families feeling uncertain. This glossary of senior living terms can make your search a little easier.

Glossary of Senior Living Terms

  1. Activities of daily living (ADL): This term describes the basic types of activities seniors often need assistance with—showering, grooming, dressing, eating, toileting, continence care, and walking/transferring. It’s often used to determine what type of care is best for an older adult and their monthly fees.
  2. Adult day program: It can be unsafe for a senior with Alzheimer’s or other health conditions to be left home alone. This creates a challenge for family caregivers who work outside the home. Adult day programs can be a solution. They offer structured support and life enrichment activities to clients. They also provide seniors an avenue for socializing. Some adult day centers offer transportation services to and from the center, which makes it easier for an adult child who works. Clients are usually served meals and snacks at the center and get assistance with personal care. Depending on state licensing, some are also able to assist with medication management.
  3. Aging in place: This phrase is used in many different settings. It generally refers to a senior’s desire to remain in whatever setting they call home for as long as possible. It might mean staying in their private residence with the assistance of a home care agency as their needs for care increase. It could also apply to a resident of an independent living community who wishes to remain in their apartment or villa instead of transitioning to another type of housing.
  4. Ambulatory: Another term you’ll hear in senior living, especially when determining what level of care an older adult requires, is ambulatory. If an older adult is able to get around on their own or with minimal assistance, they are considered to be ambulatory. By contrast, those who struggle with mobility and require assistance are often referred to as nonambulatory. Communities use residents’ ability to ambulate as a guide for staffing.
  5. Assisted living community: Many consider these communities an ideal blend of independence and assistance. Residents have a private apartment, suite, or villa. They also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing a variety of services and amenities are always nearby. These services usually include personal care support, medication management, three daily meals, life enrichment and wellness activities, emergency call systems, transportation, and housekeeping.
  6. Independent living community: With less focus on care and more on freedom and lifestyle, an independent living community allows residents to thrive during retirement. Most household tasks, maintenance, and repairs are provided, giving residents more time to enjoy themselves. Wellness and life enrichment activities are offered every day. Some communities also offer meal plans and transportation services to independent living residents.
  7. Life plan community: Also known as a continuing care retirement community or CCRC, this housing option offers all levels of care in one location. That usually includes independent living, assisted living, and a nursing home. Many life plan communities also offer memory care, home care, and hospice.
  8. Medication management: Making mistakes with medication is a common reason older adults find themselves in an emergency room. It’s why medication management is one of the most popular services in assisted living and specialized dementia care communities, as well as nursing homes. Depending on state regulations, a community may offer medication reminders or hands-on assistance taking medicine.
  9. Respite services: A short-term stay at a senior living community is a solution designed for family caregivers who need a break. Caregivers can rest from the physical and emotional demands of caregiving or take a vacation. At an assisted living or memory care community, respite guests generally stay for a week or two. Depending upon state laws, an older adult might be a respite guest for up to a month before they must be formally admitted to the community.
  10. Specialized dementia care: This type of senior living helps adults with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia live their best quality of life. They are designed with both safety and life enrichment in mind. These areas of an assisted living community or nursing home are secure to prevent residents with memory loss from wandering away. Team members who work in dementia care programs receive specialized training to master best practices for communicating with and supporting residents.

Call Heritage Senior Communities to Learn More

As a fourth generation, family-owned senior living company, we understand just how overwhelmed families sometimes feel as they begin the search for a community for a loved one. Our experienced team can help make things easier. We invite you to call the Heritage community nearest you with questions or to schedule a private tour!

Tips for Celebrating Senior Loved Ones on Grandparents Day

Tips for Celebrating Senior Loved Ones on Grandparents Day

Grandparents play an important role in most families. They can be a confidant to their grandchildren, a cheerleader and source of unconditional love, and a resource for learning and exploring the world. Whatever the role, the support of a grandparent is invaluable. Research shows that children with involved grandparents develop healthy attitudes about aging.

In some families, grandparents have assumed even greater roles in their grandkids’ lives. Single-parent households and families where both parents work outside the home are increasing. Grandparents often fill in when a child’s mother or father can’t be there. From helping with car pool duties to babysitting after school, grandparents help bridge the gap in care.

On Sunday, September 11th, Heritage Senior Communities and aging services organizations across the county will honor the important work of family elders by celebrating Grandparents Day. It’s a holiday that dates back to 1978 and then-President Jimmy Carter.

If you and your family would like to plan something special for Grandparents Day, we have a few ideas you might find helpful.

Honoring Senior Loved Ones on Grandparents Day

  • Host a family talent show: This can be a great intergenerational family event. It doesn’t take great talent, just a willingness to have fun. Coordinate a family talent show where everyone in the family—individually or in groups—participates. Long distance family members can record their talent for you to share with your senior loved ones during the show. You can even go the extra mile and award prizes, such as Most Talented, Best Group, Most Original, and Best Sport.
  • Plan a picnic in the park: Early September is a great time to plan outdoor activities in Michigan and Indiana. If you aren’t familiar with the local park system, call to see which ones take reservations for covered picnic areas and if any are accessible for adults with mobility issues, if needed. Reserve space for your family to enjoy an intergenerational picnic on Grandparents Day. Keep the menu simple and ask everyone to bring a dish or two. You could also plan a few old-fashioned group games, such as balloon toss and egg races.
  • Organize a legacy project: As we grow older, most of us begin to reflect on our life, family, and contribution to the world. Legacy planning becomes important to many seniors. They might become interested in researching their family tree or documenting what they know about their family for future generations. A nice Grandparents Day activity could be for all of the family’s generations to tackle one of these projects together. This list of genealogy websites might provide you with helpful information to get started.
  • Host an outdoor movie night: This is another great way to gather with several generations of the family. It can be as simple as renting or borrowing a digital projector or lightbox and showing a classic Disney movie. You can stream it against the side of the house or on a white sheet strung between two trees in the backyard. Place blankets on the lawn for the kids and camping or folding chairs for the adults. Serve favorite movie foods, like buttered popcorn, boxes of candy, and pop. Don’t forget to stock up on bug spray.
  • Schedule a home maintenance day: This requires a little work from everyone in the family, but can be a great bonding experience. By tackling home repairs and maintenance projects at your senior loved one’s home, you’ll provide a meaningful gift. Help your parent create a list of things they need done around the house. Encourage them to be honest and not hold back. Then you can track down the supplies needed for the projects before the scheduled work day. Remember to take pictures!

Enjoy Life at Heritage Senior Communities

From healthy meals and maintenance-free living to a variety of enrichment activities, the benefits of senior living are numerous. If you or a loved one is considering a move, we hope you’ll keep Heritage Senior Communities in mind. Call the community nearest you to schedule a private tour today!

Tips for Connecting with a Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s

Tips for Connecting with a Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna:

My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. At first the changes were small and easy to navigate. She was a little forgetful, so we learned to write everything down for her. She also had trouble with tasks like writing checks and grocery lists. Between my mom and I, we were able to cover those challenges.

In the last year, however, my grandma’s disease has advanced and it’s tough to communicate with her. She’s always been an important part of my life, and I need to find ways to maintain our connection. I believe she needs it too.

Do you have any tips to make communication easier? I don’t want to overwhelm her with constant chattering, but I do want to help her feel wanted and needed.


Mary in Williamsburg, MI

Tips for Communicating with a Senior Who Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Mary:

This comes up often when I’m helping families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s in their search for specialized dementia care. Both written and verbal communication skills are impacted by the disease, sometimes even in the early stages. It’s frustrating for the senior and those who love them.

I can offer a few tips that might make it easier for you to have a nice conversation with your grandmother:

  • Control the environment: Find a quiet, calm place for the two of you during your visits. Adults with Alzheimer’s often have trouble processing an overly hectic environment. Many struggle to concentrate when their environment is loud or busy, and that can lead to anxiety and agitation. Sit together in a quiet corner. Turn the television off.
  • Stay positive: While it can be difficult to witness the changes Alzheimer’s causes in a loved one, do your best to stay positive. Be mindful of your expressions and body language. Try to smile and project a cheerful disposition.
  • Be patient: If your grandmother still has some verbal skills but takes a little longer to get words out, be patient and don’t interrupt. Don’t rush her or talk over her. If it becomes obvious that she needs a little prompting to avoid getting too upset, do so in a kind, conversational way. Resist the urge to take over completely.
  • Talk slowly: Many of us speak too quickly or use a lot of slang in our language. For someone with memory impairment, that can be difficult to understand. Try to slow down and speak clearly. Keep sentences brief. These all make it easier for a person with Alzheimer’s to follow along with the conversation.

I hope these tips help you, Mary. Please feel free to contact the nearest Heritage community if you have more questions or to learn more about specialized dementia care.

Kind regards,


What Will My Role Be After My Dad Moves to Assisted Living?

What Will My Role Be After My Dad Moves to Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

After much thought and many conversations, my dad has decided to move to an assisted living community. For almost four years, my husband and I have been trying to help him remain in his own home. However, this past year has been a real challenge. He’s experiencing some balance issues that his doctor thinks are linked to poor nutrition and being too sedentary.

Our hope is that being surrounded by his peers with opportunities to socialize will help spark his enthusiasm for life again. Not to mention being able to enjoy well-balanced meals that he doesn’t have to cook or even warm up!

While I believe this is the right decision for my dad’s mental and physical well-being, I’m struggling with what my new role in his life will be. I’ve become accustomed to seeing him every day or so, stocking his freezer with meals, taking him to doctor’s appointments, and generally caring for his well-being. It’s been a lot for me to take on, and I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to give my dad the care he needs.

Do you have any advice for me as my dad makes this transition?


Nicole in Hudsonville, MI

Navigating an Aging Parent’s Move to Assisted Living

Dear Nicole:

Caregiving for a loved one can be both rewarding and demanding. As an aging adult’s need for care and support increases, families often realize the senior would enjoy a better quality of life in an assisted living community. It’s a transition that helps ensure the older person is happy, healthy, and safe. It also allows loved ones to find better balance in their own lives.

While caregivers usually know this is a good solution for everyone involved, they often feel bad about their inability to care for their loved one at home. Sound familiar? I have a few suggestions I hope you will find helpful.

  • Redirect negative thoughts.

When you find guilt or negative thoughts creeping in, try to redirect your attention. Take the dog for a walk or pull out the dust cloth and do a little cleaning. Listen to some uplifting music while you exercise. Many people find 15 minutes of yoga or meditation works well at focusing the mind on the good. The idea is to train your brain to replace guilt with something positive. Allow yourself to accept that you are doing what’s best for your dad and your family.

  • Believe in your decision.

When you believe you’ve made an informed decision, it will be easier to relax and help your dad prepare for the move. That means being thoughtful in your research, asking good questions, and visiting every community you are considering in person several times, if possible. Review the article “Questions to Ask on the First Call to Assisted Living” to make sure you know what to ask the staff at each community.

  • Volunteer at the community.

Once your dad selects and moves into an assisted living community, give yourself some time to find better balance in life. Then, talk with your dad to see how he would feel about your getting involved at the community. Most assisted living communities utilize volunteers in a variety of roles ranging from helping out with activities to arranging flowers on dining room tables.

  • Join a caregiver support group.

No one understands these types of difficult feelings better than fellow family caregivers. Joining a support group will allow you to connect with people who are in situations similar to yours. Many assisted living communities and senior centers offer in-person support groups. You could also consider an online caregiver forum, like those hosted by the Family Caregiver Alliance.

I hope this information is helpful, Nicole! Sending my best wishes for this transition to you and your dad.

Kind regards,