Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Navigating the senior living industry can be difficult, but with the right vocabulary, you can become an advocate for yourself or your loved one.


Below is a list of terms commonly used to describe senior living. Additionally, you will find a list of taboo words that the industry is moving away from as well as words to use instead.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Bathing, dressing and grooming, walking and moving about, eating, toileting, and other personal care tasks.

Adult Day Care

On-site supervision and activities program for residents as well as those from the community.

Assisted Living Residence (ALR)

The Massachusetts assisted living legislation defines an assisted living residence as any entity which provides room and board, administers personal care services for three or more adult residents who are not related to their care provider, and collects payments or third party reimbursements from or on behalf of residents.

Companion Suites

Units designed to be shared by two residents.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

Usually comprised of independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care on one campus. Although they may offer assistance with ADL’s, CCRC’s are not required to obtain assisted living certification.


Required of Massachusetts assisted living residences every two years. Conducted and overseen by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – Executive Office of Elder Affairs.


Cognitively Impaired

Elder Choice

A financing subsidy program of the Massachusetts Housing in which at least 20% of the units are reserved for low-income residents.

Emergency Response

Call system found in all units whereby help may be summoned by the resident.

Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA)

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts state agency that certifies and oversees assisted living residences.


A building that stands alone and is not part of a campus with other care options.

Group Adult Foster Care (GAFC)

MassHealth (Massachusetts Medicaid) reimbursement which pays for benefits in an assisted living residence for financially and clinically eligible seniors.

Guest Suite

An in-house accommodation available for relatives and friends of residents.

Housing with Services

Apartments (not certified assisted living) that have additional services available to residents such as central dining, laundry, homemaking, personal care, activities and wellness programs.

Independent Living Units

Units that may include some basic services such as meals and housekeeping.

Limited Medicine Administration

The administration of medication to a resident by a family member, practitioner, licensed or registered nurse. This is an optional service in assisted living.

Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC)

A federally authorized program that assists in the production and preservation of affordable rental housing for low-income families and individuals.  Tax credits are awarded to housing providers according to strict application requirements.


A state official who advocates on behalf of residents in assisted living residences. Receives, investigates and resolves complaints against a residence involving safety, health, welfare, or the rights of the residents.


Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is a national insurance program funded jointly by Medicare and Medicaid. PACE provides and coordinates all needed preventive, primary, acute and long term services so that older individuals can continue living in the community.

Personal Care

Assistance with one or more activities of daily living either through physical support or supervision.

Personal Care Assistant (PCA)

A person trained to provide personal care assistance.

Personal Transportation

Provided on an individual basis as needed/requested. There may be an additional charge for this service.

Private Pay

When the individual pays for their own assisted living.

Resident Capacity

Reported by each residence, the total number of residents who could reside in the community, since more than one resident may live in one unit.

Resident Kitchen

All residences must provide by law either a kitchenette in the unit or access to a refrigerator, sink, and heating element in the common area.

Respite Care

Short term care provided in furnished apartments.

Scheduled Transportation

Trips/activities arranged by the residence for residents to go off site.

Section 8 Housing Program

The federal government’s largest affordable housing assistance program. Benefits can be either mobile vouchers which allow eligible recipients to choose a rental unit, including assisted living as long as the landlord is a willing participant, or project based Section 8 which is attached to a particular building and does not move with the tenant.

Security System

An alarmed system on the doors of the building.

Self Administered Medication Management

Certified assisted living residences are required to assist residents to self-administer medications by an individual who has completed Personal Care Service Training, a practitioner or a licensed or registered nurse. They must remind residents to take medication, check the package to insure the name on the package is that of the resident, observe the residents while they take the medication and document in writing the observation of the residents’ actions regarding the medication.

Service Plan

Under the Massachusetts law, the sponsor of an assisted living residence must maintain a service plan for each resident and his/her legal representative. This plan is individualized and confidential and describes the service needs of the resident. This plan must be developed prior to a resident’s move-in and must be updated every six months or as needed if the resident’s health status or family situation changes.

Senior Care Options (SCO)

A combined MassHealth and Medicare program that includes health care and social services, to help low-income seniors stay healthy and able to live in their own homes. A team of health professionals develops a plan of total individualized care for each member. Services are provided by a network of medical and other professionals, including a primary care doctor, nurses, specialists, and a geriatric support coordinator, who are part of a senior care organization.

Shared Bath

All residences must provide, at a minimum, a private half bath equipped with a lavatory and toilet for each living unit. (Under certain circumstances, some residences may request a waiver from EOEA.)

Skilled Nursing Facility

State licensed nursing homes providing skilled health care.

Special Care Residence

The Residence in its entirety or a separate and distinct section within the Residence that provides care and services for one or more Residents, and which is designed to address the specialized needs of individuals, including those who may need assistance in directing their own care due to cognitive or other impairments.

Special Care Unit

A portion of a Special Care Residence designed for and occupied pursuant to a Residency Agreement by one or two individuals as the private living quarters of such individuals.


The individual or legal entity named on the certification of an assisted living residence.


Supplemental Security Income funds for eligible residents to pay for certified assisted living. Combines with GAFC subsidy for those financially and clinically eligible.


May be private and/or provided by State/Federal agencies.


May be comprised of one or more rooms and house more than two residents.

Veterans' Benefits

The Veterans Administration provides a special pension, “Aid And Attendance”,  for veterans which can help pay for care in the home, nursing home, assisted living residence and is based on financial and medical need.

Use This

Use This Word

  • Seniors
  • Residence or Community
  • Resident
  • Apartment or Room
  • Senior Living

Not That

Instead of This One

  • Elder
  • Facility
  • Patient
  • Bed
  • Long Term Care