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The Language of Senior Living

If you’re searching for a senior living community for yourself or a loved one, you’ve probably come across a lot of terms and acronyms that have you scratching your head. Independent Living? Assisted Living? Personal Care? Senior Living? Retirement Living? What are the differences between these terms, if any? How can you determine what’s the right choice for you?

Independent Living? Assisted Living? Nursing Home? What's the difference?

We know it can be confusing! In this post, we’ll help break down some of the most common terms and abbreviations to give you a clearer picture of what the heck everyone's talking about.

Independent Living (IL). Independent living is more of a lifestyle than a form of care. This type of living combines the independence of living in your own place with all the benefits of being part of a senior living community. Individuals who choose IL are active, healthy seniors, usually 62 or older, who don’t need additional care services but want the freedom and maintenance-free lifestyle of a senior community. Independent Living is often used interchangeably with "senior community", "senior living" or "retirement living".

Assisted Living (AL). Residents of Assisted Living are still mobile, but need a little extra help with the activities of daily living (ADLs - see below). In assisted living, residents get the benefits of a maintenance-free lifestyle, plus are typically provided meals, housekeeping and social activities. Mostly, it's about the added safety that comes from having trained staff available to help with medications, bathing, dressing and getting to the bathroom. Rules and regulations for AL vary from state to state, so it's not uncommon for Assisted Living communities to accept a wide variety of residents and care levels depending on where the community is located.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL). This acronym is an all-encompassing phrase for things we do on a daily basis, like getting dressed, taking medications, walking from place to place, bathing or using the bathroom. Needing assistance with ADLs is one of the signs that someone could benefit from assisted living.

Nursing Home. Nursing homes, or "long-term care" facilities, provide long-term care for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. People who need round-the-clock medical attention, nursing care or maximum assistance with ADLs (see above) typically require a nursing home. Many people confuse the term "skilled nursing" with a nursing home, but they aren't the same thing (see below).

Skilled Nursing or Rehab. Skilled nursing, sometimes called "skilled care" or just "skilled", refers to temporary nursing home care combined with rehabilitation programs like physical therapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy. People typically go to a skilled nursing/rehab facility after a hospitalization, injury, stroke or surgery. It's intended to be a short-term stay as they get back on their feet, but rehab can often last several months at a skilled nursing facility. Many nursing homes have a skilled rehab component.

What sort of phrases have you heard during your senior lifestyle search? Are there specific ones we didn’t address? Drop us a note or call us, and we’ll help clarify things for you. We know that choosing a community is a big deal, and we want to make it as easy as possible for you.

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