Retirement terminology: what does it mean?
Assited living, independent living, frail care, midcare. For a person investigating retirement options for a family member, all these terms can be quite confusing! Terms such as postoperative care, sub-acute care, step-down and convalescence are also frequently used in the trade. So, what do all these terms mean?
Independent living, life in a retirement village:
This term describes a person who is perfectly able to live in a retirement village as s/he is capable to live independently without the assistance of nursing staff. S/he would be expected to still drive, cook, shop and take care of her/his financial affairs. S/he would still be able to socialise and organise social events.
These terms are very similar. They describe a person who is starting to require a little assistance. Generally, the person is in her/his late 70s, early 80s and has been living alone, but is no longer coping with the requirements of daily life. They may also be needing some assistance in mobilising or washing or with taking their daily medication… This person could live alone with the assistance of a carer, or could move into a retirement home where care is provided for all residents. Generally, people requiring midcare enjoy social events to be organised for them as they find the organising and catering to be too cumbersome.
At the frail care stage, a person would require a lot of nursing and he/she may need help with dressing and washing and toileting and may or may not be bedridden. A frail person may also be physically all right but mentally frail, requiring constant supervision. A mentally frail person could be exhibiting signs of senile dementia (Alzheimers, vascular dementia or other forms of dementia) and, as such, may be confused, disoriented, agitated, restless, anxious. On the other hand, a person who is suffering from early stages of dementia, who only needs a little orientation from time to time and who is still social and able to socialise, would be best looked after in a midcare environment.
It is important to point out that each care facility has their own definition and classification for what they call frail care, midcare, assisted living… so it is important to discuss the nursing requirements of a family member with the care facility before admitting them. Most care facilities, in any event, will want to assess the patient before admission in order to determine whether they are able to provide the necessary care. They may also require a doctor's report on the patient.
And what about all those other terms? Convalescence, step-down, sub-acute care, post-operative care:
A person requiring this type of care has probably spent some time in hospital because of an illness or an operation and requires care to recuperate before going back home. They are medically stable and no longer need to be in a hospital environment, and can be discharged to a care facility.
Some of these care facilities are similar to hospitals but do not have an ICU or a theatre. Other facilities are less formal and could be retirement homes where a patient can be nursed to a stage where he/she can go back home.
Typical situations where a facility such as this would be needed is following surgery, strokes, heart attacks, fractures, pneumonia, accidents, falls and so on. Some medical aids pay for these facilities.
"Retirement home" is another name for "old age home" or "nursing home". Some people think that if they are buying a cottage or unit in a retirement village, they are actually buying a retirement home for themselves. This is incorrect. A retirement home is in fact a care home, old age home or nursing home where care is provided on a 24/7 basis.