Definitions and Terms


As varied as the State licensing and definitions are, so are the types of physical layouts of buildings that provide assisted living services. Assisted living residences can range in size from a small residential house for three (3) residents up to very large residences caring for hundreds of residents. Assisted living falls somewhere between an independent living community and a skilled nursing facility in terms of the level of care provided. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) combine independent living, assisted living, and skill nursing care in one (1) facility.

Although the majority of assisted living residences care for more independent or active seniors, there are also assisted living residences who specialize in specific areas of care, such as Alzheimer’s / Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Mental Health, etc. There are communities that cater to a more active lifestyle by providing on campus golf, swimming, hiking, etc.

People who live in newer assisted living residence usually have their own private suite or apartment. There is usually no special medical monitoring equipment that you would find in skilled nursing facilities. Trained staff is usually on-site around the clock to provide assistance with other needed services. Household chores are performed; sheets are changed, laundry is done, and food is cooked and served in assisted living residences.

Alternatively, individual living spaces may resemble a dormitory or hotel room consisted of a private or semi-private sleeping area and a shared bathroom. There are usually common areas for socializing, as well as a central kitchen and dining room for preparing and eating meals.

Each senior is an individual who has varied needs when seeking out the best assisted living residence for those needs.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s): Bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, eating and other day-to-day activities.

In most cases, a licensed professional who undertakes the duty of managing the day-to-day operations of the assisted living community.

Aging in Place: A concept that advocates allowing a resident to choose to remain in his/her living environment regardless of the physical and or mental decline that may occur with the aging process of aging.

Assessment: An evaluation, usually performed by a professional, of a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and social capabilities.

Alzheimer’s Disease: A progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of function and death of nerve cells in several areas of the brain, leading to loss of mental functions such as memory and learning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.

Assisted Living: A social model of care based housing for individuals who need personalized supportive services (assisted) for activities of daily living. Some services provided in Assisted Living communities may include:
Three meals a day served in a common dining area
Housekeeping services
Assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, walking and medication
Access to health and medical services
24-hour staff availability
Personal laundry services
Social and recreational activities

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC): Is a community that offers several levels of assistance, including independent living, assisted living and nursing home care. It is different from other housing and care facilities for seniors because it usually provides a written agreement or long-term contract between the resident (frequently lasting the term of the resident’s lifetime) and the community which offers a continuum of housing, services and health care system, commonly all on one campus or site.

Dementia: The loss of intellectual functions (such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning) of sufficient severity to interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Dementia is not a disease itself but rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or conditions. Symptoms may also include changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Dementia is irreversible when caused by disease or injury but may be reversible when caused by drugs, alcohol, hormone or vitamin imbalances, or depression.

HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996): This act became a law on January 1, 1997. The act relates to assisted living communities from a resident’s confidentiality standpoint regarding medical and personal information.

Home Health Care: Provision of medical and nursing services in the individual’s home or assisted living community by a licensed provider.

Hospice Care: Philosophy and approach to providing comfort and care at life’s end rather than heroic lifesaving measures, which can include medical, counseling, and social services. Most hospice care is furnished in-home, while specialized hospices, assisted living communities or hospitals can also provide this service.

Long-Term Care: Care given in the form of medical and support services to persons who have lost some or all of their capacity to function due to an illness or disability.

Long-term Care Insurance: The insurance which pays for a succession of care giving services for the elderly or chronically ill. This care may be provided in a facility (nursing home, mental hospital, etc.) or in the individual’s home with a nurse or aide.

Medicaid: Public assistance funded through the state to individuals unable to pay for health care. Medicaid can be accessed only when all prior assets and funds are depleted. There are income eligibility criteria that must be met to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid accounts for about 52 percent of the nation’s care costs, and is the source of payment for almost 70 percent of residents in nursing homes. Medicaid can reimburse Nursing Facilities for the long-term care of qualifying seniors, and in some states, Medicaid partially pays for Assisted Living care through Medicaid waivers.

Medicare: A federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older and for individuals with disabilities. The Social Security Administration regardless of income administers Medicare. It also provides for hospital and nursing facility care (Part A) and physician services, therapies, and home health care (Part B)

Nursing Home:
Provides 24-hour skilled care for the more acute patients. Patients generally rely on assistance for most or all daily living activities (such as bathing, dressing and toileting). (from ALFA) One step below hospital acute care. Regular medical supervision and rehabilitation therapy are mandated to be available, and nursing homes are eligible to participate in the Medicaid program. These facilities are State Licensed. Also referred to as Nursing Facility or Convalescent Home.

Occupational Therapy: A creative activity prescribed for its effect in promoting recovery or rehabilitation. This is done to help individuals relearn activities of daily living and is generally administered by a licensed therapist.

Physical Therapy: The treatment of disease or injury, by physical and mechanical means (as massage, regulated exercise, water, light, heat, and electricity.) Physical therapists plan and administer prescribed physical therapy treatment programs for residents to help restore their function and strength.

Rehabilitation: Therapeutic care for persons requiring intensive physical, occupational, or speech therapy in order to restore to the patient to a former capacity.

Resident Assistant/Caregiver: Assistants that work under the supervision of the Administrator in an assisted living community. A Resident Assistant provides the most personal care to residents. This personal care includes such activities as bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, and assistance with medications. Resident Assistants must be trained and tested to provide care in assisted living communities.

Respite Care: Services that provide people with temporary relief from tasks associated with care giving (e.g., in-home assistance, short stays at assisted living communities or nursing homes, or adult day care). Short stays may be needed for the caregiver to rest themselves; go on vacation; attend a function; go out of town on business; etc.