Senior Living Glossary of Terms

Virtual VillageWe've provided an alphabetical list of terms that will help you learn more about retirement.


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

Alzheimer’s Care

Often delivered in a completely secure area of a skilled nursing facility or personal care facility. Highly-structured daily activities with closely-monitored supervision.

Caregiver or Resident Assistant or Certified Nursing Aides

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

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

A community that offers several levels of assistance, including independent living, personal care and skilled nursing. 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 or Residential Living

A residential living setting for senior adults that may or may not provide hospitality or supportive services. Under this living arrangement, seniors lead independent lifestyles that require 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.

Lifecare Plan (Type A Contract)

An agreement that provides housing, services and amenities, and unlimited long-term nursing care included in a Lifecare Benefit Credit. The higher initial fee is based on the assumption that residents may require and utilize higher levels of care as their needs develop over time. The Lifecare Plan is designed for individuals who do not have an existing long-term care insurance policy and want to protect their estate from possible future continuing care costs. In addition, the prepayment of future health care costs qualifies these residents for significant tax benefits through an IRS medical deduction.


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).

Memory Support (Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care)

Personal Care 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 personal care communities will accept individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia through the entire disease process, whereas others will only accept individuals who are in the early stage of the disease.

Modified Plan (Type B Contract)

An agreement that provides housing, services and amenities, with long-term care services included in a Lifecare Benefit Credit. The Modified Plan is designed for individuals who want to supplement an existing long-term care insurance policy and desire the additional services showcased with the plan.

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.

Person Centered Care

Person Centered Care is a philosophical approach to retirement living and direct care that honors and respects the voice of residents and those working closest with them. It involves a continuing process of listening, trying new things, seeing how they work, and evaluating lifestyle preferences in an effort to individualize care and de-institutionalize the nursing home environment.

Personal Care

Personal Care is a senior living option that combines housing, supportive services, and health care, as needed. Individuals who choose personal care enjoy an independent lifestyle with assistance customized to meet individual needs, and benefits that enrich their lives. Personal Care 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. Retirement communities typically offer dining, social activities, and personal care services designed to meet the individual needs of each resident.

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.

Personal Care Homes

Pennsylvania provides a state supplement to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for residents in these types of facilities. A Personal Care Home provides food, shelter, and personal assistance or supervision for four or more adults who do not need skilled nursing care. Residents may require assistance or supervision in matters such as dressing, bathing, diet, financial management, evacuation, and medication prescribed for self-medication.

Skilled Nursing Facility

Skilled Nursing Facilities, sometimes referred to as Nursing Homes, are medical care options that provide nursing or convalescent care for three or more persons unrelated to the licensee. A skilled nursing facility 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, skilled nursing facilities that wish to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement must be certified in accordance with federal law. Beyond licensure and certification requirements, skilled nursing facilities must also honor the federal Nursing Home Patient’s Bill of Rights. These rights are designed to promote and protect the well-being of skilled nursing residents.

Supportive Living

Supportive Living is an “umbrella” term which includes Personal Care and Skilled Nursing Care within the continuing care continuum. Supportive Living includes direct care support services given to a resident after they transition out of Residential Living/Independent Living. Supportive Living stresses independence, dignity, respect and overall well-being of residents as they require more assistance during the aging process.

Traditional Plan (Type C Contract or Fee for Service Contract)

An agreement that provides housing, services and amenities, with long-term care services on a per diem basis when needed. The Traditional Plan is designed for individuals who do have an adequate long-term care insurance policy or can privately fund their possible future continuing care costs. Residents do not qualify for the IRS medical deduction under a Fee for Service/Type C Contract. The Traditional Plan is offered through Residential Living at Brethren Village.