The following terms are used commonly in describing the
various types and levels of senior living and care
available. They are listed from most independent to least
independent. Other relevant definitions are listed at the
end. Definitions apply in New York and Pennsylvania unless a
single state is noted.
- Independent living
Independent living is for seniors (typically with a minimum age of 65) who do not require care, but prefer to live in a setting where outdoor maintenance is managed and bills for electricity, cable, water and other services are handled by an organization. Residents pay the organization an entrance fee or a monthly rental fee for their lodging and services. Independent living offers privacy, as well as architectural amenities that aging may necessitate, such as grab bars, wider doorways, handrails, etc.
- Adult care facility (NY) – sometimes known as ACF
Adult care facilities serve residents who do not require continuing medical care. Regulations allow only medically stable residents to be admitted and retained in an adult care facility. Adult homes provide personal care, medication supervision, activities, housekeeping and transportation. 24-hour on-site supervision and three meals per day per resident are included. Resident rooms cannot have kitchens, and accommodations may be private or semi-private (shared room).
- Assisted Living Program (NY) – Sometimes known as ALP
Assisted living programs offer a variety of services for residents who need daily assistance but generally do not require constant nursing care. Different categories of assisted living allow facilities to serve residents with specialized needs and some skilled nursing needs. Assisted living facilities emphasize the resident’s autonomy and independence in selecting the services they desire.
- Personal care (PA)
Personal care is offered in a licensed residential care facility that provides custodial care to generally well elderly individuals who because of age or infirmity cannot or choose not to live independently. Personal care facility services include medication and nutrition management, supervision and assistance with activities of daily living, structured activities, and limited nursing services.
- Skilled nursing
Skilled nursing is for residents requiring round-the-clock nursing and custodial care.
- Continuing care retirement community (CCRC)
A continuing care retirement community encompasses the full range of living options -- from independent living to skilled nursing care – in one location. This allows a resident to enter at the independent level and, as his or her care needs increase, age into the services provided by the CCRC. This “aging in place” approach allows the client to receive the services they need without relocating. It also allows couples who may require different levels of care to remain in close proximity to one another.
- Dementia care
Dementia care is for residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia care is offered in specialized units within adult care or skilled nursing facilities. These units are secure and provide special stimulation for residents who are in many cases physically able but lacking mental capacity.
- Low-income/subsidized housing
Low-income/subsidized housing is available for applicants who meet certain income specifications. Subsidized senior housing is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- Palliative care
Palliative care is an interdisciplinary approach that focuses on improving quality of life for patients with terminal conditions. Emphasis is placed on comfort measures, pain management and symptom management rather than aggressive, curative measures.
- Respite care
Respite care provides temporary overnight care for ill or disabled older adults for a few days or weeks. It gives caregivers a short break from their duties, whether for personal or medical reasons.
- Short-term rehabilitation
Short-term rehabilitation helps residents bridge the gap between hospital and home or a return to a lower level of care following surgery, a fall or for other reasons. Physical, occupational and speech therapy can be provided.