Glossary of Terms

What Does Senior Living Mean to You?

Senior living means something different for everyone. That’s why the residents of Presbyterian Senior Living communities focus less on retirement—and more on living. We hope you find this glossary of terms helpful as you navigate the new opportunities and experiences that senior living presents.



Approval given to a senior housing or service provider by an official review board. The provider must undergo a thorough evaluation and meet specific requirements in order to be accredited. Some examples of accreditation bodies for senior housing and the senior care industry include the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Tasks that are performed as a part of daily life. These activities include managing medicines, housekeeping chores, meal preparation, eating, bathing, grooming and getting dressed. As an individual gets older, it can become more difficult to accomplish these tasks independently. Health professionals routinely refer to the ability or inability to perform ADLs as a measurement of the functional status of a person. The ability to perform ADLs is a determining factor in choosing what type of care an individual may need.

Adult Day Services for Seniors

A nonresidential facility where staff provide care and other services during the day and the senior returns home in the evening. The services offered in an adult day center provide a break to caregivers while providing health services, personal care, therapy, meals and snacks, as well as social activities for seniors. Adult day services enable caregivers to continue working outside the home, receive help with the physical care of a loved one, avoid the guilt and expense of placing a loved one in institutional care, and have respite from what can be a “24/7” responsibility.

Advance Directive

A legal document that lets others know an individual’s desires in regard to future medical treatment. Examples of advance directives include a living will, durable power of attorney and health care proxy.

Affordable Senior Housing

Affordable Senior Housing is a senior community designed to provide affordable rental living. Income limits apply.

Aging in Place

A concept that supports a senior to remain in their residential environment despite any physical declines that might occur due to the aging process.

Alzheimer’s Care

Special care, programs, and services provided for an individual with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease

A progressive neurological disease that is generally diagnosed in people over 65 years of age. Although each person experiences Alzheimer’s in a unique way, there are many common symptoms. The earliest observable symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be “age-related” concerns, or manifestations of stress. In the early stages, the most commonly recognized symptom is memory loss, such as difficulty in remembering recently learned facts. As the disease advances, symptoms include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, language breakdown, long-term memory loss, and general withdrawal as senses decline.

American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA)

AAHSA is the national nonprofit association representing over 5,700 not-for-profit organizations, which offer a continuum of aging services, including adult day services, home health, community services, senior housing, Personal Care residences, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes.


Establishing a charitable gift annuity allows a person to receive immediate or deferred income from a gift such as cash and appreciated securities. The annuity is a simple, contractual agreement between the individual and an organization in which assets are transferred to the organization in exchange for a fixed payment to the person. This type of gift can be quite attractive due to its potentially higher rate of return and immediate income tax deduction.

Application for Residence

A form to be completed by individuals applying for residency in a retirement community.

At-Home Services

In-home assistance with everyday tasks that may be difficult or unsafe for a resident to do alone. Professionally coordinated, At-Home Services foster good health and independence while enabling residents to do the things they enjoy. Services are varied and may include medication assistance, help with airport check in, holiday and special event planning, assistance with morning or evening routines, seasonal closet organizing, etc.


Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A trained and certified health care professional who assists individuals with healthcare needs and activities of daily living (ADLs), and provides bedside care – including basic nursing procedures – under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).

Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)

An independent, not-for-profit accrediting body for human service providers including continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) and aging services networks. CARF promotes quality, value and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process. An organization receiving this five-year accreditation has put itself through a rigorous peer review process and has demonstrated to a team of surveyors during an on-site survey that it is committed to conforming to CARF-CCAC high standards. It is widely regarded as the “seal of excellence” in identifying high-quality programs and services to older adults.

Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC)

An accrediting organization which was acquired by CARF in 2003. CARF-CCAC accreditation is awarded to providers that meet and maintain rigorous standards of quality.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

Senior housing which offers multiple residential options and services so residents can maintain an independent lifestyle in a private residence and change their level of support as their needs change. Options can include independent living, Personal Care, adult day services, skilled nursing care, and rehabilitation. The range of service options provides residents with long-term security and peace of mind knowing that if their needs change, the appropriate level of support is available.

Continuum of Care

A comprehensive range of programs and levels of care for seniors.


Delaware Healthcare Facilities Association (DHCFA)

A nonprofit organization of nearly 55 licensed health care facilities. Our membership is diversified and represents individual and multi-facility operations of non-profit as well as for-profit organizations. Members account for over 5,500 beds in Delaware. DHCFA is an affiliate of the American Health Care Association.

Dementia Care

Special services that offer a protected and healthy environment for individuals with memory impairment. Living areas may be located within an Personal Care or skilled nursing setting.

Durable Power of Attorney

A legal document in which an individual designates another person to act on their behalf when they are unable to do so. A durable power of attorney gives the representative the authority to make financial and health care decisions.


Eden Alternative

An approach that seeks to change the culture and environment of today’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Eden Alternative residences place the seniors at the center of nursing home life, and the residence is transformed into a “human habitat,” an environment of diversity. Animals, plants, and gardens, children and people of all ages form an integral, daily part of resident life.

Equal Housing Opportunity

In accordance with the federal Fair Housing Act, Equal Housing Opportunity provides protection from discrimination on the basis of race, color, age, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex or physical ability.


Five Star Rating System

The 5 Star Rating System from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is considered by some when considering quality.


Geriatric Nursing Assistant (GNA)

A trained health care professional with special certification required by some states for nursing assistants in long-term care facilities.


Health Care Power of Attorney

A legal document in which an individual designates another person to make health care decisions if he or she is unable to make or communicate their wishes. The health care proxy has, in essence, the same rights to request or refuse treatment that the individual would have if capable of making and communicating decisions.

Health Care Proxy

A person named in an advance directive or durable power of attorney to make decisions for the person who signed the document.

Hospice Care

Supportive end-of-life care with a focus on medical, psychological and spiritual support. The goal is to help people who are dying have peace, comfort and dignity. The caregivers work under the direction of a physician to control pain and other symptoms so a person can remain as alert and comfortable as possible.


Independent Living

Independent Living for seniors refers to residence in an easy-to-maintain, private apartment or house within a community of seniors.

Independent Living Communities

Independent Living or retirement communities offer the privacy and freedom of home combined with the convenience and security of on-call assistance and a maintenance-free environment. Residents live on their own and care for themselves in a community where household services and recreational and social outings are available to them. Housing options include private homes, townhouses, villas, and apartments.


Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)

The Joint Commission is an independent nonprofit organization that evaluates and accredits health care organizations and programs with a focus on quality and safety of care. It is typically associated with but not limited to hospital accreditation.


LifeSpan Network

LifeSpan Network is the largest senior care provider association in the mid-Atlantic region representing more than 245 senior care provider organizations in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Members include not-for-profit facilities providing care and services to seniors.

Living Will

A legal document that specifies what types of medical treatments are desired.

Long Term-Care

A variety of services that include medical and non-medical care to people who have a chronic illness or disability. Long-term care helps meet health and other personal needs. Most long-term care services assist people with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom. Long-term care can be provided at home, in the community, in Personal Care or in skilled nursing centers.

Long-Term Care Facility

A skilled nursing center or Personal Care residence that provides care to people who can’t be cared for at home or in the community.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Private insurance that can cover or defray the cost of long-term care in a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility or at home. Policy terms vary greatly.


Managed-Care Plan

A health insurance plan in which the patient agrees to stay within a comprehensive network of health care providers.


A program, funded by federal and state governments, which pays for health care for low-income individuals. This includes nursing home care for people meeting the medical eligibility requirements and having low incomes and limited assets. In most states, Medicaid also pays for some long-term care services at home and in the community. Who is eligible and what services are covered vary from state to state.


A federal program that pays for certain health care expenses for people over 65. Medicare pays for skilled nursing facility care for a limited period of time if an individual meets certain conditions.


Private insurance program that can supplement the gaps in Medicare coverage, which helps to pay for Medicare deductibles, prescription drugs and services beyond Medicare’s support.


Occupational Therapist

A health care professional, often abbreviated as “OT,” who helps people to improve their ability to perform tasks in their activities of daily living or work environment.


Pennsylvania Association for Non-Profit Homes for the Aging (PANPHA)

PANPHA is the Pennsylvania state affiliate for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. As such, it works with its members of non-profit senior service providers to advocate for public policy initiatives that support individual rights, quality care, equitable access and reimbursement for seniors throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Personal Care Community

A professionally managed residence for seniors who need help with everyday tasks, such as dressing, bathing, eating, or using the bathroom but don’t need full-time nursing care.

Physical Therapist

A licensed health care professional who uses specially designed exercises and equipment to help patients maintain or restore their functional abilities.

Post-Surgical Care and Rehabilitation

The skilled nursing and rehabilitation team management of surgical wounds, pain, nutrition, and restoration of stamina after surgery.

Presbyterian Senior Living

A not-for-profit organization, Presbyterian Senior Living provides retirement and senior care services for more than 80 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, the organization and its affiliates provide services to more than 5,400 seniors in twenty-two locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.


Quality of Care

Federal quality indicators, customer satisfaction surveys, accreditation, and Department of Health Surveys are a few examples of how quality of care is measured. As a result, it is critical for people to tour Personal Care residences and skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and talk with staff, families and residents when making a decision.

Quality of Life

Quality of life is defined by the people who live it. That is why individualized attention to personal goals as well as physical needs is critical.


Recuperative Care

Provides comprehensive support to people who are recuperating from an illness or surgery to improve stamina with nursing, nutritional support, and rehabilitation close at hand.


Also called Rehab. After a serious injury, illness or surgery, a person may need to regain strength, relearn skills or find new ways of doing things. Physical therapy helps rebuild strength, mobility and fitness; occupational therapy helps improve independence with activities of daily living; and speech-language therapy helps with speaking, understanding, reading, writing and swallowing.

Resident Council

An independent, organized group of residents in a community who focus on a wide variety of topics which may range from menus to event planning to ideas for program and service development.

Respite Services

Respite services are short stays in a skilled nursing center or Personal Care residence. This can be the perfect solution for parents who want a comfortable home-away-from-home when families are out of town or if caregivers need to take a break from their caregiving responsibilities.

Retirement Community

Retirement communities offer the privacy and freedom of home combined with the convenience and security of on-call assistance and a maintenance-free environment. Residents live on their own and care for themselves in a community where household services and recreational and social outings are available to them. Housing options include private homes, townhouses, villas, and apartments.


Short-Term Care

Sometimes called respite care or short-stay rehabilitation.

Skilled Nursing Care

Care performed by a registered or licensed practical nurse for individuals who have significant deficiencies with activities of daily living.

Skilled Nursing Facility

A center for those who require skilled nursing care.

Speech Therapy

Speech-language therapy helps with speaking, understanding, reading, writing and swallowing and is often ordered by a physician following a stroke.

Where Do I Start?

Not sure where to start? We can help. Begin your journey by clicking one of the links below.