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Senior Care Glossary of Terms

Total Senior was founded to help families find the most appropriate senior communities & care solutions for their elderly loved ones. With countless resources to navigate, finding the right care services can be quite a daunting task, but we’re here to help. Our reputation speaks for itself and we look forward to guiding many more families!

As you begin your search for the right senior care community for your elderly loved one, you may encounter various terms, expressions, acronyms, or abbreviations that you may not be familiar with. In order to help guide you through the process with a complete and thorough understanding, we’ve compiled a Glossary of Terms:

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) – Activities of daily living are the tasks that an individual completes each day including bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, toileting, cleaning. To get into further detail this could include putting on shoes and socks in the morning, brushing teeth, cutting through steak during a meal, or even walking to the dining room.

Administrator – An Administrator is a licensed professional responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of a care facility or community. Nursing Homes, Assisted Living, Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly, and even Independent Living communities have Administrators. The Administrator licenses are managed by different departments, depending on the type of facility (Example: Assisted Living community Administrator in California is licensed by the California Department of Social Services: Community Care Licensing Division)

Adult Day Care – Similar to the common idea of a child day care, adult day care is a day program for elderly individuals. Participants typically arrive in the morning and return home in the afternoons and evenings. Some attend adult day care because they simply aren’t safe being at home alone while their primary caretakers are away at work. Others attend in order to live a more active lifestyle. Activities at adult day care centers include social time, arts and crafts, physical rehabilitation, mental rehabilitation and mind games, current events, language learning, music therapy, and even day trips or outings.

Aging in Place – Aging in place is the idea that an elderly individual will remain in their home, whether it is a personal residence or a senior care community, and not be relocated due to a decline in their physical or mental health. Moving an elderly individual into a new living environment could be very disruptive to their lifestyle and the routing they’ve become accustomed to, often resulting in a sharper decline in cognition and physical ability.

Alzheimer’s Disease – A degenerative, age related disease caused by neuron dysfunction and death in specific regions of the brain responsible for cognitive functions. Alzheimer’s is a result of genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms include forgetfulness, inability to recognize others, wandering, combativeness, and decline in motor skills.

Ambulatory – This means that the individual is capable of walking around. They are not restricted to a bed or wheelchair, and are not bedridden.

Assisted Living – Assisted Living Communities are for seniors who want to maintain some level of independence but require various amounts of assistance with performing daily tasks. Assisted living communities are non-medical with caregivers trained to assist with daily tasks such as cleaning, bathing, grooming, toileting, and dressing. Often, the biggest benefactor of assisted living communities is the family member that can sleep easy knowing their loved one is being supervised 24 hour a day and a plan is in place in case of emergencies.

Continuing Care Retirement Community – This type of community is one which is able to care for an elderly individual throughout different stages of their life as health continues to decline. These communities include Independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing.

Dementia – A disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury. Typical symptoms include memory disorders, impaired reasoning, and personality changes. Dementia has no cure and it is highly recommended to practice preventative care to slow or avoid the symptoms.

Home Health Care – A form of supportive care provided in an individual’s home. Care is similar to the type of care an individual would receive at an assisted living facility, but also includes nursing services.

Hospice Care – A type of care provided to those with terminal illness. Hospice includes medical care, counseling, and social services. Hospice care is provided in the home, either at an individual’s private home or often in an assisted living community, with nurses and caregivers visiting.

Independent Living – Independent Living Communities are designed especially for seniors to recreate a communal living environment without the hassles of maintenance or management of a home. Most Independent Living Communities don’t have doctors or nurses on staff, but they do typically have caregivers to assist with daily tasks, housekeeping, and meal preparation when needed. These settings give seniors the opportunity to make new friendships and participate in a myriad of activities. Available services vary from community to community, but many are designed to care for seniors for the remainder of their lives, without a need to relocate.

Long Term Care Insurance – An Insurance Policy which covers the cost of assisted living, nursing home, or home health care. Premiums vary and are based on health, age, benefits, amount paid and deductible.

Medicaid – A Federal and State jointly funded medical financial assistance program. This program provides benefits to individuals with limited financial resources, as well as the elderly and the disabled. Medicaid covers more than half of the nation’s care costs and is the source of payment for the overwhelming majority of nursing home residents. Income eligibility criteria exist in order to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, Medicaid also pays for Assisted Living through Medical waivers.

Medicare – Medicare is a national medical insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration. Individuals 65 and over, as well as some disabled people, qualify for Medicare. This form of insurance covers hospital visits and nursing home care as well as standard doctor visits, various types of therapy, and home health care.

Medication Management – In assisted living, as well as other senior care communities, medication management is a standard and very common service. There is a specific set of rules and guidelines outlining the procedure by which communities are allowed to provide medications to a resident, in accordance with a Physician’s orders. Medications must be self administered by residents. Facilities cannot perform medicine injections.

Memory Care – Memory Care is a type of care designed to cater to the needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Memory care is available as a specialized unit within an assisted living facility or in some cases, entire communities are tailored to care for the specific needs of individuals with various degrees of the cognitive impairment. Features of some memory care communities include secured exits to prevent wandering and enhanced visual cues, such as signs or pictures, designed to help resident feel more oriented within their surroundings. Most states require additional licensing for permission to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

Non-Ambulatory – This is often the same as bedridden. The inability to walk around by one’s self.

Nursing Home – A facility that provides room and board, 24 hour nursing care, and activities for residents with long-term care illnesses. The cost of Nursing Home care is typically covered by Medicaid. These facilities are also required to provide medical supervision and rehab therapies.

Occupational Therapy – A program taught/administered by a licensed therapist designed to re-teach individuals how to perform typical daily tasks, including ADLs. Examples of things taught in Occupational Therapy include, how to tie shoes, how to button a shirt, and how to use the restroom.

Physical Therapy – This is a program, typically individualized to cater to a person’s specific rehabilitation needs, which includes exercise to improve physical mobility and ability. Physical Therapy is common after a fall (broken hip, ankle, etc) or stroke. Therapists create personalized plans to help individuals restore their strength and function.

Rehabilitation – This could be any form of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, or Speech Therapy. The process of learning, or re-learning functions to restore quality of life.

Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) – RCFEs are smaller, home-like settings, for seniors that prefer to be in a residential setting and do not require 24 hours nursing care. Like Assisted Living communities, they are considered non-medical facilities, however they offer a more personal and attentive living environment. RCFEs provide room, board, housekeeping, and personal care assistance with basic activities like personal hygiene, dressing, eating, and walking. Typical Board and Care Homes are licensed for six (6) beds and offer private or semi-private room, three home cooked meals (plus snacks), medication management, and housekeeping.

Respite Care – A short term care plan provided either at home or in a senior care community such as Assisted Living or Residential Care Facility for the Elderly. Often lasts days or several weeks.

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