Assisted Living, Independent Living, Frail Care, Midcare – Help!

For a person investigating retirement options for a family member, all these terms can be quite confusing!

And if you think these are all the terms used, there are more to confuse you even more. Terms such as: post-operative care, sub-acute care, step-down, convalescence are also frequently used in the trade.

So, what do all these terms mean?

Here’s a glossary.


this term describes a person that is perfectly suitable to live in a retirement village as she/he is capable to live independently without the assistance of nursing staff. She/he would be expected to still drive, cook, shop and take care of her/his financial affairs. She would still be able to socialize and organize social events.


we are combining the terms assisted living with midcare as we feel that these terms are very similar. They describe a person that is starting to require a little assistance. Generally (and we are generalizing here!) the person is in her/his late 70’s, early 80’s, has been living alone and no longer coping with the requirements of daily life. They also may be needing some assistance in either mobilizing 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 organized for them as they find the organizing 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 ok 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. A person who is instead suffering from early stages of dementia and who needs a little orientation from time to time and who is still social and able to socialize 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?


we have lumped these terms together as they all refer to similar situations. A person requiring this type of care has probably spent some time in hospital as a result of an illness or an operation and is requiring care to recuperate before going back home. They are medically stable and no longer require 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 nor 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, pneumonias, accidents, falls and so on. Some of the medical aids pay for these facilities.


A retirement home is another name for old age home or nursing home. However, 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)…. That is incorrect. A retirement home is in fact a care home, old age home and nursing home where care is provided on a 24/7 basis.

Has this article been of assistance to you? Let us know by emailing us here.