Wise words from OTTERBEIN | Do you know your senior living vocabulary?

Written by Healthy Living News. Posted in January

When you or a loved one develops a need for “extra help” or a move to a senior living community, you will soon discover that there are many options, but to research and choose the best option for you is a confusing task. For those in the business of helping aging adults and their families, the vocabulary of services is part of the language of the senior living culture. For most people needing to access services, the language is foreign and needs defining. Here is a glossary of some of the services available to seniors and their families:


Adult day services: Adult day services provide care and supervision to those who need supervision, social support, or assistance with daily activities and who attend the center during the day for a specified number of hours but are not residents of the facility.

Advance directive (living will): A document written when in “good” health that informs an individual’s family and healthcare providers of wishes for extended medical treatment in times of emergency.

Assisted living: Assisted living is for those 55+ who want to live as independently as possible but may desire assistance with some of the activities of daily living, such as laundry, housekeeping, bathing, dressing, transferring/walking, or medication management.

Home health: Home health provides therapy and skilled nursing services to homebound patients during an illness or injury. Home health care is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurances and will usually only pay for services while the homebound patient recovers. After recovery, for most people, continued help in the home will become private pay.

Hospice care: Hospice is a type of care for those with life-limiting illness. Hospice care takes place wherever an individual calls home and is provided by a team that includes physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers, nurse assistants, and volunteers. Hospice is a Medicare benefit and is also covered by Medicaid and most private insurances.

Independent living: A community designed exclusively for seniors (usually defined as persons over age 55), in which the resident does not need daily assistance with medical or personal care but enjoys social engagement and activity with peers.

Medicaid: A jointly funded medical financial federal/state health insurance assistance program, offering benefits to individuals with limited financial resources, the disabled, and the elderly. There are income eligibility criteria that must be met to qualify for Medicaid. A person must have exhausted nearly all assets and be in a skilled nursing facility to participate in this program. Medicaid can reimburse skilled nursing facilities for the long-term care of qualifying seniors, and in some states, Medicaid pays for assisted living through Medicaid waivers.

Medicare: Nationwide medical insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration for individuals 65 and over and certain disabled people, regardless of income. Provides for hospital and nursing facility care (Part A) and physician services, therapies, and home health care (Part B).

Medicare Part A: Helps pay for care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, home healthcare, and hospice care.

Medicare Part B: Helps pay for doctors, outpatient hospital care, and other medical services not requiring hospitalization.

Memory care: Memory care offers specialized care for individuals with memory impairments, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists show individuals how to achieve their maximum level of ability to perform daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and basic housekeeping chores, to regain their highest level of independence possible.

Physical therapy: Physical therapy focuses on exercise techniques as well as strengthening and pain relief. The goal of PT is to make activity easier, including walking, going upstairs, getting in and out of bed, etc.

Respite care: Respite care provides temporary relief for caregivers, ranging from several hours to days. May be provided in-home or in a residential care setting such as an assisted living community or skilled nursing facility.

Speech therapy: Speech therapy helps individuals improve any impaired speech functions and regain their communication skills. Qualified therapists also complete an assessment and provide treatment for swallowing.

Skilled nursing: Skilled nursing provides round-the clock assistance and medical attention on either a long-term or short-term basis.

Transitional care: Transitional care is for those who need to regain strength and independence after surgery, injury, or illness and are in transition from home or hospital. May include physical therapy, speech therapy, and/or occupational therapy.❦