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Memory Care Terminology Guide

If the time ever comes when you must consider moving a loved one into a memory care community, you are sure to encounter a wide array of unfamiliar terms and phrases that can be confusing.

We know that this transition can be difficult. That is why we put together our memory care terminology guide to help you stay on top of everything you may hear while finding the right home for your loved one.

Common Memory Care Terms

Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

The daily activities that seniors need to take part in to sustain themselves. This includes eating, bathing, and taking medication. Since each senior’s needs are different, the degree of assistance they need can dictate a suitable type of care.

Acute Care

Medical care provided for a short duration to treat a specific illness or condition. Acute care generally refers to doctor visits, short hospital stays or surgery.

Advance Directives

Written statements that list medical preferences if a senior is unable to make their own health care decisions. Advance directives usually fall under two categories:

  • A living will dictate which type of medical treatment an individual wants at the end of life if they become unable to speak for themselves.
  • A health care proxy, which identifies a health care agent or attorney-in-fact to serve as spokesperson on medical decisions for a senior who has lost the ability to communicate.

Alzheimer’s Disease

One form that dementia might take, Alzheimer’s disease is a type of progressive organic brain disease that affects memory and the ability to process thoughts.


The various features of a memory care community that helps provide medical assistance as well as social, cultural, and spiritual opportunities. Potential amenities include a wellness center, beauty salon, and other desirable highlights.


A person’s ability to understand information, make a decision based on that information, and communicate that decision in an understandable way.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

A senior living community that offers all levels of care for its residents. These communities supply a wide array of services to seniors, such as:

  • Independent living opportunities
  • Memory care support
  • Skilled nursing

Seniors who live in these communities have long-term care options where they won’t need to worry about changing locations.

Continuum of Care

A system that ensures a senior’s current and potential future needs are provided within the same community.


Short-term confusion and disrupted attention that is usually accompanied by disordered speech and hallucinations.


The general term for a decline in someone’s mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with their daily life. This can include memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not all dementia comes from Alzheimer’s.

Hands-on Assistance

Physical assistance from a medical care professional that allows an individual to perform activities of daily living. This level of assistance isn’t needed at the independent living level but may become necessary as someone’s level of care changes.

History and Physical (H&P)

A formal assessment of a resident’s care needs. These provide the full “story” of when the resident first sought care and serve as the most complete assessment of a senior’s ongoing health history.

Hospice Care

A service designed to provide end-of-life care and comfort. Hospice care works with individuals and their loved ones to help them plan around the family’s goals.

Levels of Care

The levels of aid that an individual needs with activities of daily living. 

Long-term Care

A wide array of services provided to an individual over an extended period of time.

Long-term Care Insurance

An insurance policy that helps pay for care at a community setting or at home. This insurance doesn’t cover independent living room and board but can cover some of the care provided in assisted living, nursing homes, and other caregiving facilities. 


A federal and state program that provides health care coverage to seniors and other people who qualify.


A national government health insurance program specifically for people aged 65 and older and some individuals under the age of 65 with specific disabilities and health conditions.

Medication Management

Designed to streamline the medication administration process for seniors, this system allows professionals to oversee every step of medication management. This includes identifying the right drugs, dosage, timing, and administration. 

Memory Care Communities

A type of senior living that provides specialized care for people with dementia and other memory issues. These communities consist of specialized programs that focus on supporting individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The staff is specifically trained to support those with organic brain disease.

Nursing Home

A long-term senior living option for seniors who need additional support following a hospital stay or a greater level of care than what’s provided at assisted living communities.

Outside Services

Additional services that might not be offered inside an assisted living or memory care community but can be brought in as additional layers of support. This includes home health, hospice, or private duty care.

Private Pay

One of several ways that seniors pay to live in a memory care community. Private pay is made up of personal resources that seniors used to pay for senior living out of pocket, including:

  • Personal savings
  • Sellable assets
  • Retirement accounts

Quality of Life

A person’s overall enjoyment of life in their current state. Senior living and memory care communities focus on providing housing, services, and care to help seniors make the most out of their retirement years.


This is the process of restoring and enhancing different functional abilities that were lost or diminished after an injury or over time. Common forms of rehabilitation include physical, mental, speech, and cognitive care.

Senior Living Community

A collective term for various retirement communities where seniors move out of their own homes and into a space that provides activities, socialization opportunities, and other benefits. Senior living communities start with independent living and can include assisted living, nursing homes, and other forms of retirement and assistance communities.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)

A facility that provides skilled nursing care. Skilled nursing facilities provide individuals with short-term care after an injury, illness, or support with other medical health concerns before returning home.


The process of interacting with other people. Social activity has been proven to help improve senior’s mood, cognition, and view on life. 

Sundowners/ Sundowning 

A state of confusion that occurs in the late afternoon and into the night. It is most often found in patients who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  This can bring out a range of behaviors such as increased confusion, anxiety, agitation and sleeplessness.

Need help finding the right memory care option for you or your loved one? Let National Church Residences help you find a place that’s right fit.

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