John O'Connor
John O’Connor

It wasn’t terribly long ago that old people needing help had two choices: stay put or move to a nursing home.

Times and terms surely have changed. These days, the eldercare concept encompasses a widening spectrum of categories, sub-categories and even sub-sub-categories. Then there are emerging models that simply stand alone. And in many ways, the party is just getting started.

Even nursing homes don’t much use that traditional moniker anymore, except perhaps colloquially. They now march under various new banners, including skilled care, skilled nursing care, transitional care, rehab care and even post-acute care. Then there’s the first among equals: long-term care. Wait, isn’t long-term care just a new name for nursing homes? Or does it encompass a wider continuum? Well, it depends.

And what about what was until recent times called assisted living? Now it’s generally referred to as senior living. But wait, doesn’t senior living also indicate a wide swath of housing and care services? And independent living? Again, it depends.

Then there’s home care. Is that a separate category from home healthcare? Or is it a wider tent that includes home health, skilled home care and other services? You guessed it: It depends.

If this blurring seems utterly confusing, that’s only because it is. Now to be fair, in some ways this development might be seen as progress. It is after all, the result of a dynamic and growing eldercare system that keeps adapting to new conditions and realities.

So if you are not quite sure what bucket you belong in right now, here’s my advice: Don’t get too amped up. Just wait a few years. Chances are better than good that a new term will be coming your way.