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Senior Living Glossary of Terms

active seniors



Activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and toileting.

Assisted Living

Assisted Living is a senior living option that combines housing, supportive services, and health care, as needed.  Individuals who choose assisted living enjoy an independent lifestyle with assistance customized to meet individual needs, and benefits that enrich their lives.
Assisted Living promotes independence and dignity for each resident and encourages the involvement of a resident’s family and friends.  Staff is available to meet both scheduled and unscheduled needs.  Communities typically offer dining, social activities and personal care services designed to meet the individual needs of each resident.

Caregiver or CNA

Refers to day-to-day caregivers in senior living settings who may aid with medications, dressing, dining, ambulating, etc. These are often certified professionals—Certified Nursing Aides.

Congregate Housing

Similar to independent living except that it usually provides convenience or supportive services like meals, housekeeping, and transportation in addition to rental housing.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

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 options 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.

Independent Living

Residential living setting for senior adults that may or may not provide hospitality or supportive services. Under this living arrangement, the senior adult leads an independent lifestyle that requires minimal or no extra assistance. Generally referred to as elderly housing in the government-subsidized environment, independent living also includes rental assisted or market rate apartments or cottages where residents usually have complete choice in whether to participate in the community's services or programs.


Medicare is a health insurance program for:
  • people age 65 or older,
  • people under age 65 with certain disabilities, and
  • people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).

Medicare has:
Part A Hospital Insurance - Most people don't pay a premium for Part A because they or a spouse already paid for it through their payroll taxes while working. Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, including critical access hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities (not custodial or long-term care). It also helps cover hospice care and some home health care. Beneficiaries must meet certain conditions to get these benefits.
Part B Medical Insurance - Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover doctors' services and outpatient care. It also covers some other medical services that Part A doesn't cover, such as some of the services of physical and occupational therapists, and some home health care. Part B helps pay for these covered services and supplies when they are medically necessary.
Medicare D - Prescription Drug Coverage - Most people will pay a monthly premium for this coverage. Since January 1, 2006, new Medicare prescription drug coverage has been available to everyone with Medicare. Everyone with Medicare can get this coverage that may help lower prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs in the future. Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage is insurance. Private companies provide the coverage. Beneficiaries choose the drug plan and pay a monthly premium. Like other insurance, if a beneficiary decides not to enroll in a drug plan when they are first eligible, they may pay a penalty if they choose to join later.

Nursing Home

Nursing Homes are medical care options that provide nursing or convalescent care for three or more persons unrelated to the licensee. A nursing home provides care of chronic conditions or short term convalescent or rehabilitative care, for which medical and nursing care are indicated. Some residents are admitted for short stays of convalescent or rehabilitative care following hospitalization.  In addition to licensure, nursing homes that wish to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement must be certified in accordance with federal law.  Beyond licensure and certification requirements, nursing homes must also honor the federal Nursing Home Patient’s Bill of Rights.  These rights are designed to promote and protect the well-being of nursing home residents.
Funding options for nursing home care include: private funding, long-term care insurance, Medicare, and in large part Medicaid.  Paying for nursing home care is a major concern for many families as well as the government. Historically, Medicaid has paid for about half of the total cost of nursing home care, with Medicare and private long-term care insurance paying but a fraction of the cost.  Concerned about the growth of the Medicaid program, there is interest in identifying and supporting ways for individuals and families to accept greater financial responsibility for the cost of nursing home care.

Special Care Units (SCUs)

Assisted Living communities for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia are often referred to as “Special Care Units (SCUs).” Often housed in a special wing with additional security, cueing devices and other specific architectural features these areas are state licensed and provide programming specific to the population being served. SCUs are staffed with individuals who are specifically trained to work with individuals who have some form of dementia. SCUs can differ in the level of care they provide along the continuum of the disease. For instance, some assisted living communities will accept individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia through the entire disease process whereas other will only accept individuals who are in the early stage of the disease.