Geriatric / Senior Living Caregiving Terms
AAA - Area Agency on Aging
A publicly funded agency that provides elders with programs and resources to assist in their care and to ensure their rights are protected. The agency has local chapters that are located throughout the U.S.
Formally known as, the American Association of Retired Persons, is a United States based interest group focusing on issues affecting those over the age of fifty.
Severe or sudden.
Medical care given for a short time to treat a specific illness or condition. This can include doctor visits, short hospital stays, or surgery. Once they are fully recovered, seniors who needed short-term care typically don’t require daily attention in order to resume their normal routines and lifestyle.
AD - Alzheimer’s Disease
The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative disease in which the brain’s function gradually declines and eventually results in death. This disease starts with short-term memory loss.
ADA - Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act is a law passed in 1990 that is intended to prevent discrimination based on mental or physical disability. This includes regulations on the design and accessibility of public buildings and modes of transportation, as well as business practices.
ADL - Activities of Daily Living
The basic tasks that people complete each day and are needed in order for basic functioning. This includes bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and continence.
ADL - Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
Tasks that are usually done each day. They are not necessary for basic functioning, but they allow a person to live independently. This includes using the phone, managing finances, preparing meals, maintaining the home, managing medications, shopping, and using transportation.
Adult Day Care
Centers that provide companionship and help to older adults who need supervision during the day. The programs can help give a break to a round-the-clock caregiver. A program in which adults are supervised and provided care during the day; Elders can typically attend one to two days per week up to five days per week.
Adult Protective Services
Publicly funded investigative unit that works to review reports of abuse and neglect of seniors. The agency works with local law enforcement officials to handle abuse claims and connects seniors with support resources. To report an abuse claim, contact your local police station. If there is an emergency, call 911.
Written statements that communicate individuals’ medical preferences if they are unable to make their own health care decisions. Two types are possible: 1) A living will spelling out the types of medical treatment they want at the end of life if they are unable to speak for themselves. 2) A health care proxy, who is appointed as a health care agent — or attorney-in-fact — to make health care decisions on their behalf. That appointee becomes the individual’s spokesperson on medical decisions set out in the document if the ability to communicate is lost.
AFCH - Adult care home
Also called adult family-care home (AFCH) or group home. A small assisted living residence where employees provide for disabled adults or seniors who need help with certain tasks but want to remain as independent as possible. They are an alternative to more restrictive, institutional settings, such as nursing homes, which provide 24-hour nursing care.
Aging Life Care Manager
Formerly known as a “geriatric care manager” or GCM. It is a type of health care professional who generally has more local connections and can assist an elder and/or their family with the process of deciding what care is needed, finding the providers of that care, and coordinating the administration of that care.
ALF - Assisted Living Facility
Senior housing for those who may need help living independently but do not need skilled nursing care. These facilities generally allow the residents more freedom and the residents require less skilled care and supervision than those in nursing homes do. The level of assistance varies among residences and may include help with bathing, dressing, meals and housekeeping.
A type of progressive mental deterioration, affecting memory and the ability to process thoughts, that is one form of dementia.
A term used to refer to someone who is capable of moving. In other words, someone who is not confined to a bed or wheelchair.
Assignment of Benefits
An Assignment of Benefits is the arrangement a patient has with their insurance company that details who will receive payments from their health benefit plan. Payments can go to the patient or a doctor, hospital, or medical facility.
Equipment that provides minor care and allows seniors to perform their activities of daily living. Some—but not all—of those devices include motorized wheelchairs, walkers, walking sticks, and guard rails.
Assistive technology devices.
Products that improve a person’s ability to live and function independently. Low-tech assistive devices include canes and pill organizers, and high-tech items include electric wheelchairs, hearing aids and smartphones.
The individual who receives the benefits of a will, trust, insurance policy, or other contract. A person covered by Medicare is also referred to as a “beneficiary.”
The amount of time during which an insurance policy provides a senior with benefits. Typical options for benefit periods include three years, five years, or lifetime.
A specific condition that must be satisfied in order for an individual to be deemed eligible to use their benefit. occur to start a “benefit period.” A “benefit trigger” is part of a long-term care insurance policy.
The money paid under an insurance policy. An insured senior can also assign their benefits to a family member or a health care provider.
BP - Blood Pressure
The pressure created by the blood circulating in the human body; it is one of the basic vital signs used.
Caregivers provide non-medical care for seniors who need assistance with activities of daily living. This care can be provided in the home, or in a senior living community. Although a caregiver is generally not a skilled medical professional, some may have specialized certifications or training.
CCRC - Continuing care retirement community
Housing that offers a variety of living options and services — including independent living, assisted living and skilled care, often all on the same campus — and is designed to meet a person’s changing needs.
Medicare and Medicaid outline a set of requirements that a long-term care facility, home health agency, or hospice agency must meet to be considered certified. Medicare and Medicaid will only cover the costs of care if an establishment is certified. Some long-term care insurance policies also have this same provision.
CHC - Community Health Center
A provider of basic medical care. They typically exist in “medically underserved” areas and charge people on a sliding-scale basis.
A NJ State Certification for a “home health aide” who provides basic care, typically to people in their homes.
A condition that lasts one year or more and either requires ongoing medical attention or limits a person’s ability to bathe, care for themselves, dress, eat or walk.
CMS - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
A federal agency that is in control of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It is also in charge of many regulations and certifications.
CNA - Certified Nursing Assistant
A certified nursing assistant is a health care worker who works under the supervision of a nurse. They are required to go through training and generally work in nursing homes or hospitals. They provide patients with non-medical support, such as help with eating, getting dressed, or cleaning their living space.
A small planned community in which single-family homes, townhouses or rental units are clustered around amenities such as a community kitchen and dining room, common areas for sitting, craft and meeting rooms, gardens and potentially adult and child day care. The goal is to design a neighborhood where people of all ages and family statuses can rely on the informal, mutual support of neighbors to help out.
Community Meal Program
A program typically offered by community centers that serves healthy, balanced, nutritious meals to seniors.
The presence, or coexistence, of more than one disorder in the same person. They can occur at the same time or one after the other. Interactions between the illnesses can worsen the course of both.
People who provide in-home care and companionship for seniors. While companions do not provide medical care or hands-on care, they may perform household chores like cooking, cleaning, transportation, and errand running. Individuals who need less assistance would hire companions for caregiving roles.
In a legal sense, a person’s ability to understand information, make a choice based on that information and communicate that decision in an understandable way.
A person whom a court appoints to handle someone’s affairs when that person cannot do the job. Usually, a conservator handles only finances.
Consumer-directed personal assistance program
A Medicaid program available in several states that permits chronically ill and physically disabled people to choose, train and supervise workers who help them with activities of daily living such as bathing, light housework and meal preparation so they can remain in their homes. Some relatives and friends of the recipients of the program can qualify to be paid through this program.
The ability to control bowel and bladder function.
The amount of money a person has to pay before their insurance covers costs.
Sometimes called copays. A fixed amount ($50, for example) that one pays for a covered health care service after payment of the deductible.
The act when a caregiver helps a senior complete a task using prompts. The caregiver will provide the senior with specific visual or verbal actions that remind them to perform tasks and other daily activities like eating, taking medicine, or getting dressed.
Nonmedical care that helps individuals with bathing, dressing and other basic care that most people do themselves, such as using eye drops. It can occur in a range of environments including adult day care, assisted living centers and residential care facilities.
Short-term confused thinking and disrupted attention usually accompanied by disordered speech and hallucinations.
A symptom that refers to memory difficulties and other cognitive problems which interfere in daily life. The deterioration of intellectual abilities can include a reduction in vocabulary, abstract thinking, judgment, memory, and physical coordination. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia.
DHHA - Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services is a cabinet department of the U.S. government which aims to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. It is in control of many regulations relating to health care provisions related activities.
A health care professional who provides support to seniors and their families following a hospital or rehabilitation stay. They are tasked with working with the senior to develop and coordinate a care plan for a patient following a hospital or nursing home stay
DME - Durable Medical Equipment
Medical equipment that’s used in a home to improve a senior’s quality of life; examples include wheelchairs, hospital beds, and catheters.
DNR - Do not resuscitate order
A type of advance directive in which a person states that health care providers should not attempt to restart the heart through cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the heart or breathing stops.
Durable power of attorney
A legal document that gives someone you choose the authority to act financially, legally and medically in your place even if you become incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own. It remains in effect until the person who grants it either cancels it or dies.
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
A legal document that allows a person to transfer authority over their financial decisions to a trusted individual. In this context, the term “durable” means that the order will go into effect if the person is unable to manage their own financial decisions.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A person who has been designated in advance by an elderly person to make health care decisions when he/she is unable to make those decisions about their own care. This is also known as a health care proxy.
EHR / EMR - Electronic Health/Medical Record
An electronic system which maintains patients’ health records. This makes it easier to transfer information across institutions and doctors’ offices.
EMA - Emergency Medical Services
An ambulance with EMTs.
Employee Assistance Program
An employee assistance program is a collection of benefits companies may offer to employees that include a range of services that help people deal with personal issues.
EMT - Emergency Medical Technician
A health care worker who responds to emergency medical situations. Generally, they are the workers that staff an ambulance. They have training, but not as much as a nurse or doctor.
Also known as a death doula. An individual who provides nonmedical comfort and support to a dying person and their family. This may include education and guidance as well as emotional, spiritual or practical care.
ER / ED - Emergency Room/Department
The part of a hospital that treats patients who have immediate and emergency medical conditions.
When an insurance company or medical plan does not cover something, it is called exclusion. Health conditions, certain situations, equipment, services, or other expenses can be considered exclusions.
Short-term or temporary care in a rehabilitation hospital or nursing home with the goal of returning a patient home.
Family or informal caregiver
A caregiver is a person who provides unpaid care to a family member or friend. Any relative, partner, friend or neighbor who has a significant personal relationship with and provides a broad range of assistance for an adult with a chronic or disabling condition.
FMLA - Family and Medical Leave Act
A federal labor law that provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid job-protected leave to accommodate some family and medical situations. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave
FQHC - Federally Qualified Health Centers
A community health center that meets the government’s standards and receives government funding.
Geriatric care manager
Also called an aging life care professional. A specialist who assesses a person’s mental, physical, environmental and financial conditions to create a care plan to assist in arranging housing, medical, social and other services.
A medical doctor who has completed a residency in either family medicine or internal medicine and focuses on older adults.
A guardian is a person who is appointed by a court to make decisions on behalf of someone who is unable to make decisions for themselves. In the context of senior care, a guardian is responsible for making choices regarding an elderly person’s care.
A court-sanctioned legal relationship in which a person is given legal authority over another when that other person is unable to make safe and sound decisions regarding his or her person or property.
HCA - Home Health Care
A document that names a person to make health care decisions in the event that the patient is unable to do so. A type of durable power of attorney in which one person appoints another person to make health care decisions for them if they become unable to do so.
HHA - Home Health Aide
An individual who provides basic care, typically for seniors in their homes. This care includes waking, bathing, cleaning the living space, feeding, making sure medications are taken, and assisting with any medical conditions. Most HHAs care for elderly clients.
HIPAA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
A federal law that gives U.S. citizens certain rights to privacy when it comes to their health information. Specifically, HIPAA determines who can and cannot view personal health records or have access to health information.
HMO - Health Maintenance
A type of managed-care organization that
provides health care coverage for its clients, but only if it is administered by providers who have contracts with the HMO and are part of the network.
Home Health Agency
A Medicare-certified organization that provides health care-related services in a person’s home. In other words, they are responsible for coordinating and managing the care provided by home health aides to their clients. Nursing, social work, personal care, and various forms of therapy such as physical or occupational are often provided by these agencies.
Home health agency
A company or nonprofit, often certified by Medicare, to provide health-related services — such as nursing; personal care; social work; or occupational, physical or speech therapies.
Homemaker services are businesses that offer help with household duties like meal preparation, grocery shopping, cleaning, and laundry. Medicare does not cover these services, but some states’ Medicaid programs do allow low-income adults to qualify for financial assistance.
An end-of-life care that focuses on making the patient as comfortable as possible, while helping them cope with end-of-life issues. Specifically, hospice providers provide pain management, counseling, and comfort to care recipients and their family members. Hospice care continues until the end of life and can be provided in a facility, hospital, or private home, depending on the recipient’s wishes and circumstances. Hospice care is for individuals who have a life limiting diagnosis of six months or less and is covered under Medicare.
HSA - Health Spending Account
An employee medical expense system in which the employee pays a high deductible and low premium. The money in the account is tax-free and can be used for deductibles and copays. Money can roll over from year to year.
ICU - Intensive Care Unit
A part of the hospital for people who are in medically unstable conditions.
The inability to control one’s bladder.
A senior living option, that is an age-restricted option for a house, condominium or apartment, sometimes offered as part of a continuing care retirement community. These housing options offer few services as part of the basic rate.
The process of making decisions about medical care or medical experimentation based on open and honest communication among the health care provider, the patient and the patient’s family.
The term used for when a person dies before having made a legal will.
LCTI - Long-Term Care Insurance
An insurance plan, that is separate from health insurance, that is designed to cover the cost of long-term care. Typically, it needs to be purchased before the need for long-term care exists as the cost of the plan is based on the individual’s age and health when purchasing the plan.
Licensed Health Care Practitioner
Doctors, nurses, licensed social workers, who have met qualifications for a health care worker.
Life Plan Communities
A retirement community for seniors that helps them live as independently as possible. As the resident’s needs for assistance increase, the level of care provided also increases. These communities usually have facilities that range from independent living apartments or condos to skilled nursing facilities.
A legal document in which the signer requests to be allowed to die rather than be kept alive by artificial means if disabled beyond a reasonable expectation of recovery.
Long-term care Insurance
This coverage can pay part of the cost of care received in the home, an assisted living residence, a nursing home, or for other designated services depending on the policy.
Long-term care Ombudsman
An advocate for residents of nursing homes, residential care homes and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen are trained to resolve problems; they provide information on how to find a facility and what to do to get high-quality care. People living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities can file a complaint, and the independent, federally funded ombudsman program will investigate their claims.
LPN - Licensed practical
A person who has completed nursing or
vocational training and obtained a state license that authorizes the person to take care of basic duties in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
LTC - Long-Term Care
A type of health care that is provided over an extended period of time for people who are chronically ill, disabled, or mentally handicapped.
MA - Medicare Advantage
A private insurance policy that is meant to provide similar health insurance coverage to what Medicare provides.
MCO - Managed-Care Organization
A care method that attempts to manage care costs by selectively contracting with certain health care providers and various other cost-management techniques.
MD - Medical doctor
A health care professional who has graduated from an approved medical school, received additional training in a hospital, passed a federal medical licensing exam and qualified for a state license. Specialists must complete an additional three to nine years of postgraduate work in their practice area.
Meals on wheels
A charity, non-profit organization, that delivers daily hot meals to the homes of elderly or disabled people.
A joint federal and state program that is administered by each state and provides health insurance for those who are financially unable to cover their own care. A large percentage of those who live in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid. Medicaid has certain federal requirements, but the specific coverage and eligibility requirements differ from state to state.
A federal program that provides health insurance coverage for 65 or older who are receiving Social Security. Typically, individuals become eligible at the age of 65, but individuals under the age of 65 with certain disabilities may be eligible.
Also called Medicare Part C. A federal health program that includes additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage, dental and vision coverage, and even gym memberships.
Medicare telehealth services
A federal program that offers Medicare telehealth services. This is the use of interactive two-way telecommunications (like Zoom) to provide some medical services, including office visits, psychotherapy and consultations from an eligible provider who isn’t at your location.
A private health insurance coverage designed to pay for costs not covered using original Medicare. Services include copays, coinsurance and deductibles. Medigap cannot be used to cover the cost of long-term care.
A gathering place that provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals with dementia or other brain disorders and their caregivers can socialize, provide mutual support and exchange information.
Memory care communities
Separate facilities or specialized units of an assisted living center that focus on helping people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, where the staff is specifically trained to deal with recall problems and other impairment.
MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging
A type of medical imaging device that uses radio and magnetic waves instead of radiation.
MSP - Medicare Savings Program
A financial program that helps people who have Medicare, but who can’t afford some of the costs. It can cover the costs of premiums and copays.
MSP - Medicare Savings Program
A federally funded program administered through each state for people with limited income and resources that helps pay some or all of their Medicare premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.
A group of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other health care professionals that a particular person has access to.
NFCSP - National Family Caregiver Support Program
A grant program to states and territories to support a range of projects, such as respite care, that assist caregivers in helping their loved ones at home for as long as possible.
NP - Nurse Practitioner
Also known as advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). A primary-care provider with graduate training in advanced practice nursing who has the authority to order tests, write referrals and prescribe medicines.
Nursing Care Center
A nursing care center (formally called a “nursing home” or NHA) provides care for seniors who require constant assistance and medical care. This term covers a wide range of options defined as providing 24/7, out-of-home care and monitoring by skilled medical professionals.
A public or private residential facility providing a high level of long-term personal or medical care for chronically ill and older people who are unable to care for themselves properly.
OAA - Older Americans Act
The Older Americans Act is a law that forbids discrimination of the elderly, and funds transportation, meals, senior centers, long-term care ombudsman, and other programs that benefit the elderly.
OPP - Out-of-Pocket Payments
Are health care costs that are not covered by any sort of insurance and have to be paid out of the consumer’s pocket.
OR - Operating Room
A room in a hospital that is used to conduct surgeries.
OT - Occupational Therapy
A kind of therapy that works with a person in order to help them be able to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).
OTC - Over the Counter
A term that refers to medication that does not require a prescription.
Benefits that are offered outside of the HMO’s service area, usually only emergency services.
The total amount of money a person is required to pay every year for their health insurance’s deductibles and coinsurance. The cost is in addition to the insurance plan’s premiums.
Also called ambulatory care. Health services provided without overnight hospitalization as compared to in the home or in a clinical setting
PA - Physician Assistant
A health care professional with a master’s degree who works in collaboration with a medical doctor, often in a primary care setting. A PA can conduct physical exams, write prescriptions, and diagnose and treat illnesses, among other functions.
A medical device that is implanted in the body and helps to regulate the heart rate by using electrical impulses.
Care designed to help people with serious illnesses, typically terminal, feel better. Palliative care is designed to reduce the physical and emotional pain that can come from having a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Hospice is a type of palliative, but it also can be given at the same time as treatment to try to cure a disease.
A professional who can resolve concerns about someone’s health care experience, particularly problems that cannot be taken care of immediately.
An assessment of the patient that is usually conducted in health care facilities (e.g., assisted living facilities). They can be used to determine the level of care that the patient requires.
The number of days that a person is considered to be a patient in a health care facility. Certain insurance plans only include coverage for a certain number of patient days.
PCA - Personal Care Assistant
A person who is paid to provide those who are ill or chronically disabled assistance with their disabilities.
PCP - Primary care Physician
A health care provider who provides care to a person in the outpatient setting, both preventative and curative (e.g., regular check-ups and advice on basic medical issues). They are the general practitioner doctor that traditionally you for checkups and general health problems. Sometimes these health care professionals specialize in family practice for all ages, internal medicine for adults and pediatrics for children.
PCS - Personal care services
A broad term used to refer to help with personal hygiene and other self-care, such as bathing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom, maintaining personal appearance and walking. Some programs also can include help with meal preparation, grocery shopping and money management.
PERS - Personal Emergency Response System
Also known as a medical alert system. An personal alarm system that’s designed to alert medical personnel when there is an emergency. Generally, it consists of a wireless transmitter that can be easily activated (e.g., through pushing a button) in the case of an emergency. They are typically portable and worn by or kept near the person who might need it.
Plan of Care
A written plan of medical services and care a person needs, typically prepared by the individual’s doctor.
POA - Power of attorney
A legal document that gives someone you choose the authority to act on your behalf, usually on financial matters.
PPO - Preferred Provider Organization
A managed-care organization that has contracted with health care providers to provide discounted rates to patients covered under its insurance plan.
Also known as a pressure ulcer or bedsore. A type of skin degeneration due to pressure, temperature, age, medication, lack of movement, or a combination of all of the above. Generally, the condition can be treated by frequent turning of bed-bound patients, special medication, or in early stages moisturizers.
An outpatient medical setting that provides continuity and integration of health care to a patient across a broad spectrum of care (e.g., regular check-ups).
A reference to people / patients who are paying for care out pocket, instead of through public or private insurance plans.
A term used to refer to anyone who provides care for another person. This term can be used in reference to doctors, hospitals, medical facilities, home health aides or agencies, and other types of health care professionals.
PT - Physical Therapy
A type of therapy that focuses on helping a person promote their ability to move, minimize pain, restore function lost through disease or injury, and prevent further disability.
A medical facility providing therapy and training for rehabilitation, which is the restoration to an improved condition of physical function.
A type of short-term care that is provided in order to give a caregiver a break, or respite, from the normal stresses of caregiving. Respite care can last anywhere from an hour to a month.
An add-on provision to an insurance policy that details additional benefits the policyholder will receive for an additional cost.
RM - Registered nurse
A licensed health care professional who provides care in a variety of environments. A health professional who has graduated from a nursing program, passed a state board examination and has a state license. They can conduct tests and other medical procedures under a physician’s supervision, but they cannot prescribe medications.
RPM - Remote patient monitoring
A subcategory of telehealth services that allows patients to use mobile medical devices and technology to gather patient-generated health data and send it to health care professionals.
A physical location providing opportunities for seniors to get active, enjoy various social activities and improve their overall quality of life.
Nursing or rehabilitation services that a doctor orders and that licensed health professionals such as nurses and physical therapists provide.
SNF - Skilled Nursing Facility
A facility that provides a high level of nursing care. It’s also known as a nursing home.
Social security is a benefit that provides any eligible U.S. citizen with an inflation-adjusted monthly income for the rest of that person’s life. Once eligibility requirements are met, a person can receive Social Security benefits at age 62, or if they become disabled before they hit that age. Benefits are based on payroll tax contributions made during a worker’s life.
It is when someone must use their income and assets to qualify for Medicaid. For example, if someone does not qualify for Medicaid because their income is too high, they may go through a Medicaid spend-down to spend their income and assets until they are eligible for Medicaid.
SSD / SSDI - Social Security Disability Insurance
A federal insurance program that covers people who are unable to work due to a disability. The aid is given in the form of a monthly stipend. Benefits are based on the disabled worker’s past earnings, paid to that person and dependent family members and reviewed periodically to make sure the disability continues to restrict a person from working. To be eligible, a disabled worker must have worked jobs where Social Security taxes were deducted from the paycheck.
SSI - Supplemental Security Income
A program the Social Security Administration oversees that pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, and age 65 or older.
An individual appointed to act in place of another.
VA - Veteran’s Affairs
A government veteran benefit program. Health care insurance is included as a benefit option as well as some benefits that can help cover the cost of long-term care.
Registered nurses who provide in-home care. They can provide medical, rehabilitative, and hospice care.
Signs of life, specifically, a person’s heart rate (pulse), breathing rate, body temperature and blood pressure. They show doctors how well a person’s body is functioning.