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Glossary of Senior Care Terms

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons): A nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for those aged 50 and older. AARP provides information, benefits, advocacy and services for its members.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL): Basic self-care functions including bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, eating, and transferring in and out of beds and chairs.

Activities of Daily Living Assessment: An assessment of an individual’s physical and cognitive functions to determine if he or she can still complete activities of daily living. Assessments are performed by geriatric case managers, social workers or other similar types of professionals.

Acute care: Any treatment to diagnose, prevent, or cure an illness or to provide primary care. Treatments can be provided in an outpatient or inpatient setting.

Adaptive/Assistive Equipment: An appliance or device which assists an individual in caring for themselves or performing work or leisure activities.

Administration on Aging (AoA): The federal agency that administers the Older Americans Act. It provides resources and education to older Americans and their caregivers.

Adult Day Health Care: A type of adult day service that offers comprehensive health services in addition to social and support services. Typical facilities will provide on-site nurses, therapists, social workers and other health professionals.

Adult Day Services: Also known as adult day care or respite care, adult day services are community- based group programs designed to meet the needs of functionally and/or cognitively impaired adults. These facilities offer programs that provide a mixture of health, social and support service for older adults for periods less than 24 hours.

Advance Directive: A legal document, also referred to as a medical directive, that documents an individual’s preferences regarding the manner in which they would like to receive health care, in the event they can no longer communicate such wishes directly. Living Wills, Health Care Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxy are examples.

Age Restricted Communities: A housing area or development, often gated, that restricts ownership and residency to individuals who are over a set age. These communities are set up to accommodate older adults.

Aging in Place: A concept that advocates for allowing an individual to remain in his/her home and the community regardless of cognitive or functional impairments.

Aid and Attendance benefits: Benefits that will help cover the costs of Senior Living Care available to Veteran’s and their spouses.
Alzheimer’s disease: A progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys mental functions such as memory and learning. Individuals may also experience changes in personality and behavior.

Alzheimer’s Facilities: Licensed facilities or special care units within a larger facility that provide intermediate nursing care, medical, nursing and rehabilitation care for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias in a safe and controlled environment.

Ambulatory: The ability to walk freely and independently.

Ambulatory Aids: Devices that help individuals move safely and independently. These include walkers, crutches, canes, scooters and wheelchairs.

Ambulatory Care: Health services that are provided in an outpatient setting and do not require an overnight hospital stay.

Area Agency on Aging (AAA): A local agency that administers government funded programs for older adults.

Assisted Living Facilities: Residential housing that maximizes an individual’s ability to live independently and provides a lower level of assistance than that at a skilled nursing facility. Services include 24-hour on-call assistance and help with personal and home care such as bathing, dressing, meals, and housekeeping. Some of these facilities do provide specific Alzheimer’s disease services. Medicare does not generally cover care in these facilities.

Audiologist: A health professional who specializes in hearing measurement and hearing loss or impairment correction.

Board and Care Home: A residentially-oriented facility that offers a lighter level of care than a skilled nursing facility in a home-like setting for 2-10 residents. These facilities may not be licensed or certified and may also be referred to as residential care facilities.

Brown Bag Program: A state-funded program that provides surplus and donated edible fruits, vegetables and other food products to low income individuals 60 years of age and older.

Caregiver: A broad term used to refer to an individual who provides care to another individual who cannot care for him or herself due to a disability or functional limitation. This individual could provide nonmedical care such as help with bathing or eating or he/she could provide medically necessary care such as changing dressings. The care may be provided informally by a relative, friend or neighbor or by a paid individual who may or may not be a licensed professional.

Caregiving: Refers to services provided to individuals who are unable to fully care for themselves due to a disability or functional limitation. These services can be provided informally by a family member or friend or more formally by a paid professional such as a home health aide, nurse or therapist.

Case Manager: A professional who plans, locates monitors and coordinates appropriate social and medical services for those that are not able to fully care for themselves due to a disability or functional limitation. Also known as a care manager. Often a nurse or social worker.

Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): The federal department that administers Medicare programs and works with states to administer Medicaid.

Certified Nurse Aide (CNA): An assistant who is certified to provide general nursing care under the direction of a registered nurse or therapist. They help with every aspect of nursing care as well as provide daily personal care to patients such as bathing, eating, and exercising in a variety of settings. Also referred to as a nurse assistant.

Chronic disease: A disease or condition that lasts over a long period of time and typically cannot be cured, often associated with a disability.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): A group of chronic disorders that restrict flow of air into and out of the lungs. Disorder examples include asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiectasis.

Cognition: The mental processes of recognizing, learning, understanding, remembering and evaluating relevant information and speaking.

Co-morbidities: Multiple conditions or diseases occurring in the body concurrently.

Companionship: Services that offer homebound visitation to older adults for conversation, reading and light errands for the purpose of relieving loneliness and providing social contact.

Compression Hosiery: Special stockings which prevent swelling, provide comfort and promote circulation of blood in the feet and legs in order to reduce the incidence problems associated with poor circulation.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF): A condition caused by the inability of the heart to maintain adequate circulation of blood due to lack of strength or other factors.

Congregate Housing: Retirement hotels, inns, boarding homes and other similar residential facilities where low-income older adults and/or people with disabilities can live independently on their own, usually in one building, share common areas, social activities and amenities and eat most meals in a communal dining area.

Congregate Meals: Group meals served at facilities such as senior centers to promote health and social interaction.

Conservator: An individual or public or private agency appointed by a court to provide legal representation for an individual who can no longer manage his or her own affairs.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRCs): Housing planned and operated to provide a continuum of accommodations and services for seniors including, but not limited to, independent living, congregate housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. A CCRC resident contract often involves either an entry fee or buy-in fee in addition to the monthly service charges, which may change according to the medical services required. Entry fees may be partially or fully refundable. The fee is used primarily as a method of privately financing the development of the project and for payment for future healthcare. CCRCs are typically licensed by the state.

Convalescent Home: State-licensed facilities that provide a safe, therapeutic environment for individuals who require rehabilitative care or can no longer live independently due to functional or cognitive impairment. Also known as skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): A form of heart disease that is characterized by narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle preventing an adequate flow of blood and interrupting the supply of oxygen and other nutrients the heart requires.

Custodial Care: Board, room or personal care services that do not include a skilled nursing care component.

Daily Living Aids: Assistive aids to help an individual in eating, dressing, bathing, grooming, moving, preparing meals, and seeing.

Dementia: Deterioration of cognitive ability. Symptoms include disorientation and memory loss.

Diabetes: A disorder in which the pancreas produces too little insulin with the result that the body is unable to adequately metabolize sugar.

Dialysis: Equipment used to clean individual’s blood when one or both kidneys are defective or absent, and to remove excess accumulation of drugs or chemicals in the blood.

Disability Insurance: A type of insurance coverage that compensates some percentage of a worker’s total wages should they become sick and/or injured and therefore unable to work.

Discharge Planner: A social worker or nurse who assists a patient with health care arrangements following a hospital stay.

Durable Medical Equipment: Medical equipment prescribed by a doctor for use by a patient at home. These reusable items include such things as hospital beds, lifts, wheelchairs, and oxygen equipment.

Elder Abuse: The situation where an older adult has been abused, neglected or exploited.

Elder Abuse Shelters: Temporary housing facilities that provide a safe location for older adults who are victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Elder Law: The area of law pertaining to the rights and legal matters concerning older adults. This includes such subjects as estate planning, wills, guardianship, powers of attorney, Medicare & Medicaid.

Elder Rights & Assistance: Agencies and services that assist older adults who have been neglected, abused or exploited.

Eldercare: Caregiving delivered to an older adult that is in need of assistance.

End of Life Care: Services to help the terminally ill and their families cope with the end stages of life.

Estate Planning: Refers to the process of planning for what will happen to an individual’s assets in the event of his/her death. This generally requires an attorney’s involvement.

Executor: An individual appointed to administer the terms of a will.

Faith Based Support: Faith based organizations and individual practitioners who provide services in a way that reflects a commitment to religious beliefs and values.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): A federal law that requires an employer to allow its employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period to care for an immediate family member or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Family Caregiver: An individual who provides care to another individual who cannot care for themself. This person may be a relative, friend or neighbor and is also referred to as an informal caregiver.

Foley Catheter: A tube inserted into the bladder in order to drain urine.
Geriatric Care Manager: Also known as a Case or Care Manager. A professional who provides an assessment of an older adult’s capabilities to create a care plan to address housing, medical, social and other needs.

Geriatrician: A medical specialist who treats older adults. These are generally internal medicine or family practice physicians who have completed additional training and certification.

GI Tube: A tube inserted surgically into the stomach so that an individual can receive nutritional sustenance without eating food through the mouth.

Group Homes: Residential homes or facilities that offer personal care and individual attention for older adults, people with disabilities and others whose limitations prevent them from living alone. Group homes (which are also known as board and care homes, residential board and care homes, personal care homes or residential care facilities for the elderly) generally provide a room (which may be shared), meals and supervision; and may specialize in specific needs such as Alzheimer’s disease or developmental disabilities.

Guardianship: A legal procedure that grants an individual guardian status over another individual who can no longer make decisions for him or herself. This impacts the subject’s rights and as such is usually used as a last approach.

Home and Community Based Services (HCBS): Supportive services including home health care, personal care, adult day care, respite care and assisted living facilities to help people with disabilities to live in the community. Each state has a mix of funding sources and programs. Medicaid and other federal, state and local agencies support such programs.

Home Health Agency: A service that locates and manages health professionals who provide services in the home such as nursing, physical therapy, or personal care.

Home Health Aide (HHA): A professional who is trained to provide assistance with bathing, dressing, grooming, eating and cooking, and light housekeeping in order to assist the patient with living independently in a safe environment. These individuals are not licensed to deliver medical care.

Home Health Care: Health, personal and social care provided in the home to individuals who are functionally or cognitively impaired.

Home Modifications: Changes made to adapt living spaces to meet the needs of individuals with physical or mental limitations so they can continue to live independently and safely. Modifications can range from replacing doorknobs with pull handles to full-scale construction projects.

Homemaker: Also referred to as home chore services, a professional who provides assistance with household duties and personal care including cleaning, preparing meals, doing laundry, shopping or arranging transportation.

Hospice: A program providing support services such as pain and symptom management, social services, and emotional support for the terminally ill and their families. Care can be provided at home or in facilities.

Incontinence: Total or partial loss of bowel or bladder control or functions.

Indemnity Benefit: In an insurance policy, a fixed payment made directly to the policyholder, rather than the provider of service.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living: Functions related to maintaining independence such as shopping, preparing meals, driving, grocery shopping, managing finances, and performing housekeeping duties.

IV/Infusion Therapies: Administration of liquid medications or solutions directly into the blood using an intravenous catheter inserted in a vein in the body. These can include parenteral nutrition, antibiotics or other drugs, blood and chemotherapy.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): A professional trained and certified to provide health services including technical nursing services, administration of medication, and changing of dressings.

Living Will: A legal document that describes individuals’ wishes and preferences about lifesaving medical treatments should they not be able to communicate their wishes directly.

Long Term Care (LTC): Health, personal and social care provided over a sustained period of time to individuals who are functionally or cognitively impaired.

Long Term Care Insurance: A type of insurance coverage for long term care expenses. Most policies are sold to individuals through insurance agents but employers can also offer long term care insurance at a group discount. With an employer group policy, the insurance company is not allowed to cancel coverage after an individual’s employment ends or the employer cancels the plan. The policy is intended to cover long term care services such as assistance with activities of daily living or medical care required to manage a chronic condition and will generally cover some of, if not all, the costs associated with skilled nursing facilities, residential care homes, assisted living or other types of similar facilities. In addition, the policy may cover home health care and other costs of care depending upon the terms of the policy.

Long Term Care Ombudsman: A professional who investigates and resolves complaints on behalf of residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Meals on Wheels: A volunteer organization that provides routine nutritious meal delivery for homebound older adults unable to provide meals for themselves. Also known as mobile meals.

Medicaid: A state program that is financed at both the state and federal level that provides medical benefits for low-income people in need of care.

Medical Alert & Call Systems: Also known as Emergency Response Systems. An electronic system or device that connects an individual to assistance in an emergency.

Medicare: A federal health insurance program for individuals 65 and over, disabled individuals under the age of 65, and those needing kidney transplants or renal dialysis. Consumers contribute to the costs of Medicare through premiums, deductibles and co-payments.

Medicare Part D: Also known as the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Medicare owners can elect this higher coverage to receive discounts on certain prescription drugs.

Medication Management: Identification and counseling regarding the medication regime that individuals are using including prescription and over the counter medications, vitamins and home remedies.

Nursing Homes: State-licensed facilities that provide a safe, therapeutic environment for individuals who require rehabilitative care or can no longer live independently due to functional or cognitive impairment. Also known as skilled nursing facilities.

Nutrition Professional: A professional who provides an assessment and plan containing options and advice for improving an individual’s nutritional status. An individual may need this service because of poor health history, current dietary intake, medication use or chronic illnesses.

Occupational Therapy: Therapy that trains individuals to manage everyday tasks in order to promote independence in the home.

Paid Caregiver: A home health aide, nurse or homemaker who is hired to care for an individual who cannot care for themselves in either a private home or other housing facility. Some paid caregivers are licensed to provide care such as nurses while others such as home health aides or homemakers do not have to meet any prerequisites or obtain a license to provide care. The paid caregiver may be managed or supervised by a home health agency. Also referred to as a formal caregiver.

Palliative Care: Pain management services to provide comfort to those with life-threatening illness.

Personal Care: The functions a caregiver provides when assisting with activities of daily living, taking medications, grooming, ambulation, changing positions, and other tasks.

Physical Therapy: Physician-prescribed services to improve movement, muscle control, flexibility and range of motion and reduce or prevent physical disability.

Post-acute Care: Care provided to an individual after a hospital stay and is often related to that stay.

Power of Attorney: A legal document granting someone the right to make decisions for another.

Pressure Ulcers: Also known as bed sores, these are a form of skin damage that occurs when bony parts of the body press against other parts or a mattress or chair for a period of time.

Provider: This refers to individuals or facilities that offer health care or caregiving such as hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies.

Registered Nurse (RN): A state-licensed individual who has completed training and passed a specific examination in order to perform nursing services.

Rehabilitation: Treatments for individuals who have suffered a stroke, brain or spinal cord injury, or pain that cannot be controlled by medication alone. This also includes return-to-work programs or occupational rehabilitation, which help individuals regain skills they need.

Residential Care Facilities: A broad term used to describe group homes, assisted living facilities, board and care homes, specialized senior apartments, skilled nursing facilities or other facilities that provide services where individuals live.

Residential Care Homes: Residential homes or facilities that offer personal care and individual attention for older adults, people with disabilities and others whose limitations prevent them from living alone. Adult residential care homes generally provide a room, meals and supervision; and may specialize in specific needs such as Alzheimer’s disease or developmental disabilities. These homes are often unlicensed.

Respite Care: Temporary or intermittent care for individuals with functional or cognitive impairments that provides relief to caregivers from the demands of ongoing care. This care can be provided in the home, in the community or overnight at a facility.

Retirement Communities: Communities that provide shelter and support services to older adults who are nearly or totally independent. The level of services may include housekeeping, meal preparation, recreational and social activities, and transportation.

Reverse Mortgage: A type of loan where an individual borrows against the value of their home and does not have to pay back the principal until he/she sells the home or leaves the home permanently.

Senior Apartments: Residential facilities, apartments and/or planned communities exclusively for older adults that are available at market rates and designed to enable older adults to have a form of independent living in a secure environment while sharing common interests and having access to supportive services and a range of activities designed to promote social contact among residents.

Senior Centers: Community or residential centers with activities and non-medical services designed for independent older adults to promote well-being, activity, social interaction and meals.

Senior Ride Program: A service that provides transportation for aging adults no longer capable of driving themselves.

Senior scams: Illegitimate offers or opportunities that take advantage of seniors and attempt to steal assets.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF): State-licensed facilities that provide a safe, therapeutic environment for individuals who require rehabilitative care or can no longer live independently due to functional or cognitive impairment. Also known as nursing homes or convalescent homes.

Social Security: A federally-administered program that provides monthly benefits to eligible workers who are either disabled or age 62 and over, and certain family members.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): An extension of Medicare coverage that provides cash disability benefits for those who qualify.

Speech Therapy: Individual or group therapy sessions that help an individual overcome communication conditions such as aphasia, swallowing difficulties, and voice disorders.

Spend Down: A requirement that an individual use up most of his or her own income to meet Medicaid eligibility requirements.

Stroke: A sudden loss of consciousness followed by paralysis which is caused by hemorrhage into the brain, formulation of a blood clot or mass of dissolved matter in the blood.

Subsidized Housing: A program that accepts federally or state funds to subsidize housing for older adults with low to moderate incomes.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): A federal government program that pays benefits to low-income individuals. In order to qualify, individuals must be age 65 or older, blind or disabled.

Support Group: Facilitated group of individuals affected by a certain disease or situation that meet regularly to discuss related issues and personal feelings.

Transfer Devices: Lifts, seat lift chairs, transfer boards and other devices which help individuals who have physical disabilities move into and out of their vehicles, wheelchairs and other mobility systems.

Transferring: The ability to move in or out of a chair, bed or wheelchair. This is one of the activities of daily living.

Transportation Services: Flexibly scheduled and routed transportation services using low capacity vehicles such as vans for community residents who do not have private transportation and are unable to use the fixed-route public transportation system.

Utilities and Bill-Paying Assistance: Programs that provide financial assistance for individuals who are at risk for having their utilities shut off. These programs offer discounted utility services, provide disconnection protection, arrange for notification regarding pending disconnection, or make available special services such as large print utility bills which support the ability to make payments.

Vehicle Modification Services: Products to modify a car or van for to improve accessibility. These include hand-controlled gas and braking devices and lifts.

Wellness: A term used to describe activities that maintain and/or improve an individual’s overall health and well-being including feeling better and having more energy. Exercising, eating healthy, stopping smoking, and meditating are all examples of activities an individual can do to improve his/her overall wellness. Wellness is used to refer to complementary and alternative medicine used in treating medical conditions.