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!