Glossary of Senior Care & Housing Related Terms

At Ecumen, we seek to empower you, not confuse you. So if we say something that you don’t understand, please let us know. As you compare and contrast various senior care providers, the following are some frequent terms that you may hear.

Activities of Daily Living

Sometimes referred to as ADL’s, Activities of Daily Living include the key activities that we as human beings do as part of our normal day.  These include such things as dressing, bathing, eating, walking, cooking and house cleaning.

Acute Care

This is care that is quite short-term and episodic, often care that you’ll find in a hospital.  Subacute care is longer-term care, such as rehabilitation.

Adult Day Services

Also referred to as respite services, adult day services can be an extremely enriching option for people living with family caregivers.  These are often located within a senior housing community.  Adult day services often provide supportive services, meal preparation, enriching activities and more throughout the day.  At the end of the day, the person returns to his or her home.

Aging in Place

Sometimes also called aging in community, this refers to living at home rather than a nursing home.

Alzheimer’s Disease

A progressive, incurable brain disorder that gradually destroys brain functions such as memory and learning. Individuals with Alzheimer’s may also experience changes in personality and behavior.


The ability to walk freely without assistance.

Assisted Living

Housing in which a variety of supportive services are available.  Assisted living typically includes such things as meals, laundry, bathing and dressing assistance and/or medication management.  This is a great option for a person who wants independence, but the peace of mind knowing physical assistance is available. It’s also a great option for people who want to be part of a community.


Determination of a resident's care needs, based on an evaluation of the resident's physical and psychological condition and ability to perform activities of daily living.   Ecumen does these assessments, but we also focus on the social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and vocational parts of our residents’ being through our Ecumen Lifestyle Covenant.

Board and Care Home

A smaller residential setting – typically a house with fewer than 10 people - that offers a lighter level of care than a nursing home.

Care Manager

Also sometimes called a case manager, this is a professional who plans, locates, monitors and coordinates appropriate social and medical services for those that are not able to fully care for themselves due to a disability.  Care managers are sometimes assigned by a state, or a person can purchase private care management services.

Case Management

A system in which one individual helps a person and his or her family determine and coordinate necessary health care services and the best setting for those services

Case Mix

A method used in some states to determine patients' needs for health care resources within a nursing home. The assessment is based in part on functional ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), medical and psychiatric diagnosis.

Catered Living

A senior housing community that offers full independent living and assisted living.  It also can provide memory care.  It sometimes is also called assisted living.

Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)
CMS is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which finances and administers the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A CNA provides personal care to residents, such as bathing, dressing, transporting and other essential activities. CNAs are trained, tested, certified and work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN.)

Chronic Condition

A disease or illness that lasts over a long period of time and typically cannot be cured.

Congregate Housing

Also sometimes called catered living or assisted living, this is housing where people can live independently on their own, usually in one building, and share common areas, social activities and amenities and eat most meals in a communal dining area.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

A CCRC is a housing community that provides everything from independent living to assisted living to nursing care.  CCRCs, sometimes also called life care communities, typically require a significant down payment in addition to monthly service fees.  However, in return, the person knows he or she will have access to nursing care in the CCRC if needed.


Deterioration of cognitive ability. Symptoms include disorientation and memory loss.

Discharge Planner

A health care professional who helps a patient with health care arrangements following their hospital stay.

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS)

Services provided to people in their homes by various types of providers. HCBS may include services such as case management, home delivered meals and other supportive services.

Dual Eligible

A person who eligible for Medicare and Medicaid benefits.  

Emergency Response Systems

Electronic monitors on a person or in a home that provide automatic response to medical or other emergencies.


A specialty area in medicine that focuses on providing health care for seniors and the treatment of diseases associated with the aging process. Geriatricians typically are physicians accredited in geriatric medicine.

Health Care Directive

A written legal document which allows a person to appoint another person to make health care decisions should he or she be unable to make or communicate decisions.

HMO (Health Maintenance Organization)

Group insurance that entitles members to services of participating hospitals and clinics and physicians.


Hospice or palliative care is provided to enhance the life of the dying person.  It can be held in a person’s home or nursing home. Hospice care emphasizes comfort measures and counseling to provide social, spiritual and physical support to the dying person and his or her family.

Housing With Services

Also called assisted living, this allows a person to live independently with supportive services and not live in a nursing home.

Long-Term Care

The broad spectrum of medical and support services provided to persons who have a chronic illness or condition, and who are expected to need care services over a prolonged period of time.


The federally supported, state operated public assistance program that pays for health care services to people with a low income and minimal assets. Medicaid pays for nursing home care, limited home health services, and may pay for some assisted living services, depending on the state.


A federally administered system of health insurance available to persons aged 65 and over.  It pays for some rehabilitation services, but otherwise does not pay for long-term care.  It has four parts A, B, C and D.

Medicare Part A

Hospital insurance that helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or nursing home (limited-time rehab care following a hospital stay only), some home health care and hospice care. 

Medicare Part B

This helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies that are not covered by hospital insurance. It does not pay for long-term care.

Medicare Advantage (Part C)

People with Medicare Parts A and B can choose to receive all of their health care services through one of these provider organizations under Part C plans. 

Medicare Part D

Prescription drug coverage that helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment. 

Memory Care

Specially designed supportive housing for people living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Nursing Home

Sometimes called a skilled nursing facility or care center, this is a licensed, hospital-like setting that provides 24-hour nursing and other health-related, services to people who require continued care.

Nurse, Licensed Practical (LPN)

A graduate of a state-approved practical nursing education program, who has passed a state examination and been licensed to provide nursing care under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician. An LPN administers medications and treatments.
Nurse, Registered (RN)

Nurses who have received a two-year associate degree, three-year hospital diploma, or four-year degree and passed a state-administered exam. RNs have completed more formal training than LPNs and have greater responsibility.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists evaluate, treat, and consult with individuals whose abilities to cope with the tasks of everyday living are threatened or impaired by physical illness or injury.


An ombudsman is a consumer advocate. The Ombudsman Program is a government/community-supported program that advocates for the rights of all people who use long-term care services

Palliative Care

Also often referred to as hospice care, pain management services to provide comfort to those with life-threatening illness.

Post Acute Care

Care provided after a hospital stay in a rehabilitation center or nursing home.

Private Pay

A term often used to describe those who pay for their own services or care or whose services or care is paid for by their family or another private third party, such as an insurance company. The term is used to distinguish from those whose services and care are paid for by governmental programs (Medicaid, Medicare, and Veterans Administration).


Physical therapy treatments and recuperation. Rehabilitation can also include speech therapy and/or occupational rehabilitation, which helps individuals regain the skills they need to manage activities of daily living and/or work.

Respite Care

Scheduled short-term nursing care provided on a temporary basis to an individual who needs this level of care but who is normally cared for through home and community-based services. It provides relief for caregivers while providing proper care for the individual.

Senior Housing

Housing for seniors that includes independent living, assisted living and/or memory care.  Supportive services are provided via a contract between the customer and service provider.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)

Sometimes also called a nursing home or care center, it provides 24-hour nursing care for chronically-ill or short-term rehabilitative residents.

Sub-Acute Care

A level of care designed for the individual who has had an acute health care event (episodic) and needs nursing or rehabilitation but does not need the intensive diagnostic or invasive procedures of a hospital.