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Senior Living Glossary

Adult Day Care: A structured daytime program for seniors which usually includes meals, social activities and treatment or rehabilitation assistance.


Advantage List: A listing of healthcare providers that have agreed to give discounts to customers of specific insurance companies.


Aging in Place: When a senior chooses to spend the rest of his or her life in a single place, regardless of his or her age and medical condition. Some assisted living communities are set up to accommodate Aging in Place.


Alzheimer's Care Center: These treatment centers are designed to accommodate people who have Alzheimer's disease or advanced cases of dementia. These centers often feature safe and secure walking areas, group residential units and employees trained to assist people with Alzheimer's disease.


Ambulatory: The condition of a person who can walk without help, who is not confined to a bed or incapacitated at a hospital.


Americans with Disabilities Act: This federal law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and requires public buildings to be accessible for those with disabilities.


Assessment: An evaluation of a person's social abilities, emotional state and mental condition. Assessments are usually administered by physicians.


Assisted Living Facilities: These professionally managed communities are for people who require more care and/or supervision than they can get at home. Residents of assisted living facilities can still experience independent living while having access to prepared meals, social activities and around-the-clock assistance from trained caregivers and medical staff.


Caregiver: A trained professional who provides basic care and assistance for people who are inhibited by injuries, illnesses or old age.


Case Management: The process used by healthcare professionals to assess and provide support services to seniors, their spouses and other family members.


Certified Nursing Assistant: A certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is a trained personal caregiver who works under the direction of a registered or licensed nurse. Nursing assistants help patients with bathing, chores, getting dressed and other basic tasks.


Charge Nurse: The supervisor of a group of nurses working at a nursing facility. The charge nurse is either a registered or licensed nurse.


Congregate Housing: Residents live in rented housing but have access to services including meals, transportation and housekeeping.


Continuing Care Retirement Community: A residential community where seniors can live independently, with some assistance or with nursing-home care and supervision. This wide range of services allows residents to remain in their communities even as their medical needs change.


Dementia: A common mental disorder among seniors that negatively affects memory, behavior and judgment.


Developmental Disability: A chronic disability such as retardation or cerebral palsy that could be present at birth or develop over time.


Director of Nursing: Oversees nurses at nursing homes, creates nursing policies and ensures that high-quality care is delivered to patients. Also ensures the compliance of nursing homes with state and federal laws and regulations.


Financial Counseling Programs: Informative programs that assist seniors with bills, finances, insurance claims and other money-related issues.


Health Care Power of Attorney: When someone gives another person the legal authority to make important healthcare decisions on his or her behalf in the event of becoming incapacitated.


HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): A federal law approved in 1997 that set requirements on long-term care plans and created more restrictions on accessing medical records.


HMO: A structured system for bringing healthcare programs in specific regions to groups of people enrolled to receive benefits.


Home Health Agency: Agencies that coordinate in-home services in areas including nursing, physical therapy and occupational therapy.


Home Health Care: Seniors who are able to live on their own with minimal assistance can register for in-home services. These services, guided by a physician or home care agency, provide assistance with preparing meals, doing housework, providing companionship and a variety of other needs.


Hospice Care: Compassionate programs to help terminally ill patients and their families near the end of life.


Independent Living: Seniors live on their own with minimal assistance from caregivers or in-home service providers.


Instrumental of Activities of Daily Living: A comprehensive description of the challenges faced by seniors who choose independent living. Some of these challenges may include basic tasks such as getting dressed, shopping, cooking, paying bills or using the telephone.


Kitchenette: A small kitchen found in assisted living apartments. Kitchenettes may include sinks, cabinets, refrigerators and microwaves, but they often lack all the features of full-sized kitchens.


Licensed Practical Nurse: Nurses who are licensed to give advanced levels of treatment such as administering medication or changing the bandages on injuries.


Life Care Community: A type of Continuing Care Retirement Community where residents can receive a wide range of nursing or medical care without large changes in their monthly payments. This is accomplished through an insurance-like contract signed by residents as they move in.


Living Will: A document stating a person's preference on whether to sustain his or her life using medical procedures or devices. Doctors, family members and attorneys refer to these documents when patients are left unable to communicate or unable to comprehend their decisions.


Long-Term Care: Medical or nursing assistance given to people who have been left weakened or disabled because of an illness, injury or developmental disability.


Managed Care: A network of doctors and healthcare providers that has partnered with a specific insurance provider to streamline services and stabilize costs.


Medicaid: State-funded financial aid to assist people who can't afford to pay their medical bills. The bulk of Medicaid claims originate from seniors who are paying to live in nursing homes.


Medical Director: A healthcare planner who works with doctors and family members to make sure patients receive the personal care they need. Medical Directors, who sometimes work as physicians, also creates and implements important policies regarding treatments and healthcare.


Medicare: Financial aid from the federal government that helps seniors and people with disabilities pay for a variety of medical costs, including rehabilitative therapy and residency at nursing homes. There are no income requirements for Medicare.


Medications Management/Medication Administration: A set of rules and instructions for managing self-administered medication. These plans, often used in assisted living communities, describe when and how to administer medication, as well as when to alert patients' primary care physicians.


Medigap Insurance: An additional insurance program that covers costs not paid for by Medicare. These medical costs may include deductible payments, prescription drugs or co-insurance.


National Association of Insurance Commissioners: A national board of state officials tasked with creating policies governing the insurance industry.


Non-Ambulatory: Unable to walk without help, often confined to a bed or in the hospital.


Nurse Assistant: These nurses provide basic care to patients such as helping with bathing, eating and getting dressed. They are supervised by registered or licensed nurses and must earn a specialized personal care certification before entering the workforce.


Nursing Home: A residential care facility where seniors have access to nursing care at all hours of the day and night. Nursing homes also provide residents with meals, group activities, therapy and basic medical/rehabilitative services.


Occupational Therapy: Activities designed by licensed therapists to help patients recover the ability to perform basic tasks of daily living.


Ombudsman: A government-sponsored advocacy program supporting the rights of people who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Members of the program perform site inspections of care facilities and work with residents and staff to solve or prevent conflicts.


Physical Therapy: The use of massage, exercise, heat, electricity and other physical means to treat illnesses and injuries. These treatment plans are administered and prescribed by licensed physical therapists.


Pre-Admission Screening: An assessment of a senior's health condition, independence and personal care needs that occurs during the admissions process for nursing homes. This screening allows patients and doctors to choose care facilities with optimal treatment capabilities.


Quality Care: Personal care delivered to maximize the physical, mental and emotional conditions of patients while allowing them to live with dignity. The specific components of quality care differ from patient to patient.


Registered Nurse: Nurses who determine the needs of patients and work with their doctors to administer quality personal care plans. Becoming a registered nurse requires becoming certified by state agencies and sometimes earning a bachelor's degree.


Rehabilitation: When intensive therapy is used to help a patient recover a lost ability, such as the ability to speak, walk or perform certain tasks.


Resident Care Plan: A plan created for each resident of a nursing home describing the resident's specific needs. This includes personal care, required services and optimal social needs.


Respite Services: Temporary personal care programs that kick in when a patient's usual caregiver needs assistance or a vacation. A typical respite care program may include a brief stay at a nursing home.


Retirement Living: Retirement communities offer a variety of social activities and medical services that allow seniors to maintain their way of life while receiving the therapy and healthcare they need. Seniors must be at least 55 or 62 years old to live in most retirement communities.


Senior Apartment: Apartments, condominiums and other multi-unit housing complexes where residents must meet a minimum age requirement. These communities allow for independent living but don't provide services such as prepared meals.


Senior Citizen Policies: Insurance policies held by adults older than 65. These policies are often supplemented by financial aid from Medicare.


Senior Housing: Special communities for seniors that provide residents with personal care, specialized treatment and opportunities for social activities. Examples of senior housing communities include nursing homes and assisted living centers.


Short-Term Care: Temporary healthcare programs for patients when their regular caregivers need some time away. This is also referred to as respite care.