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Speaking the Language of Senior Care

Posted on Friday, September 25, 2020
by Outside Contributor

senior living Sponsored by Brookdale Senior Living

Caring for an aging loved one isn’t easy to begin with, but sometimes talking to health-care professionals can feel like they’re speaking an entirely different language.

Like anyone who’s immersed in an industry, the jargon of senior care becomes second nature to people who work in the profession. They may forget others don’t always know the terms they use in day-to-day interactions with patients and caregivers.

To help you better navigate the world of elder care, here are some commonly used senior care terms explained:

Activities of daily living: You’ll hear this term used when discussing a person’s capabilities. It describes tasks everyone needs to do on a daily basis, including taking care of personal hygiene, dressing, bathing and preparing meals.

Ambulatory: The ability to walk and move freely, with or without the assistance of a walker or cane. Ambulatory seniors are neither bedridden nor hospitalized.

Adult day care: These structured programs are designed to care for seniors on an outpatient basis. They immerse seniors in socially stimulating activities created just for them.

Aging in place: Remaining at home, or in a senior living community, even as health care needs change. Aging in place often includes adapting familiar environments to accommodate emerging needs.

Alzheimer’s: Short for Alzheimer’s Disease, Alzheimer’s is a medical diagnosis that only a doctor can make. The Alzheimer’s Association defines it as “a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.” It is the most common form of dementia.

Assisted living: One of the many types of senior care settings, assisted living is an environment where seniors can get services such as meals, laundry, housekeeping, assistance with daily acts of living and medication management, while maintaining a level of independence. Generally, assisted living facilities are licensed and regulated by each state.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities: This is a special type of community where residents can obtain varying levels of care as they grow older and their needs potentially become greater. Such communities often encompass independent living accommodations, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing care. As an elder’s health needs and abilities change, they can continue to receive care in the same community.

Dementia: Rather than a single condition with a single cause, “dementia” is a medical diagnosis that encompasses a variety of symptoms, including memory loss and impaired thinking — all of which hinder a person’s ability to manage daily life.

Private duty care: This type of care provides in-home assistance for seniors who need help with daily activities like bathing, dressing, cooking meals, cleaning the house and helping with medication.

Hospice care: This kind of care is for terminally ill people who are expected to live less than six months. By focusing on the spiritual, mental and physical needs of the patient, the goal of hospice care is to improve a patient’s quality of life during the final stages.

Independent living: In this kind of senior living option, people live independently in their own homes, such as an apartment or small bungalow. The community provides supportive services like yard care, meals in a common dining area, social activities, housekeeping, transportation and more. Or, the community may offer no services for seniors who are totally independent.

Living will: A legal document that spells out the wishes of individuals, including the level of life-saving devices and procedures they will allow in the event that they are no longer competent or able to make decisions on their own.

Palliative care: A form of care that focuses on pain relief and preventing chronic suffering. For many patients, this form of care is often administered alongside hospice care.

Person-centered care: You’ll hear this phrase used in reference to senior living arrangements where residents receive care specific to their individual needs. The purpose of person-centered care is to allow people to make as many decisions for themselves as possible, depending on their individual ability.

Power of attorney: This legal document, drafted by a lawyer, designates a specific person to make decisions about a senior’s affairs in the event that they become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Resident care plan: This written document details the level of care and type of services a resident in a senior care community needs on a daily basis.

Respite care: Aimed at helping relieve caregiver stress, respite care can occur in a senior’s home or at a senior living community. Skilled caregivers relieve the senior’s usual caregiver so that person can run errands, go to appointments or just relax for a set amount of time.

Sandwich generation: Those who are caring for their children and their aging parents at the same time.

Universal design: A practice and philosophy that focuses on creating buildings, products and places that are accessible to all — seniors, people with disabilities and people without disabilities.

Still Have Questions?

Brookdale makes senior living easy for AMAC members with exclusive discounts like 7.5% off your basic service rate. If you have questions, we’re here to help. Visit for more information.

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