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The ABCs of Aging: Eldercare Terms You Should Know





mal>More Helpful Eldercare Information


mal>Eldercare: How to Talk About It With Your Aging Parent

The ABCs of Aging: A Glossary of Eldercare Terms


mal>Getting Professional Help


mal>Eldercare Facilities: An Overview of the Options


mal>Eldercare Safety Checklist and a downloadable Eldercare Emergency Info Sheet


mal>Should You Have Your Parent Move In With You?

Grappling with the decisions involved with caring for an elderly parent? It’s hard to try to find solutions that meet everyone’s needs. It’s nearly impossible if you don’t know the jargon and the acronyms. Here are some of the terms you need to know:

mal>Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) – These include basic personal activities, such as bathing, eating, dressing and using the toilet.


mal>Acute – A condition of short and sharp course; opposite of chronic.




Adult Day Services – Programs offering social and recreational activities, supervision, health services and meals in a protective setting for older adults with physical or cognitive disabilities.


Advance Directive – A legal document in which people give others instructions about their preferences with regard to health-care decisions in case they become incapacitated in some way. Two types of advance directives are a “living will” and a “durable power-of-attorney” for health care.


Assisted-Living Facility (also called Personal or Residential Care Home) – Bridges the gap between independent living and skilled nursing home care. Typical residents are elders needing assistance with daily activities but not constant nursing care. A variety of amenities may be offered.


Care/Case Manager (CM) – Geriatric care/case managers assess clients’ needs, create service plans and coordinate and monitor services. Typically, care/case managers are specially trained and licensed nurses or social workers.


Chronic – A medical condition of long duration, denoting a disease of slow progress and long continuance.




Community Care – Programs and services in your own community that can assist you in caring for an elder. Includes informal networks, such as friends and neighbors; information and referral services; case management services (found at hospitals and social service agencies); transportation services; nutritional services, such as Meals on Wheels; respite care (relief for caregivers); hospice care; and support groups.


Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) – A retirement community offering multiple levels of care (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care) housed in different areas of the same campus. Requires payment of a monthly fee and often a large lump-sum entrance fee.


Custodial Care – Care that does not require specialized training or services, such as assistance with activities of daily living, as well as with self-administration of medications and preparing special diets.


Durable Power of Attorney – A document that names a person who will act as someone’s agent and who will make decisions on his or her behalf, if he or she is incapacitated. The power of attorney can be restricted to a specific area (such as health care) or can cover broad decision-making responsibilities. In order to grant a power of attorney, you must be competent. You do not lose the legal right to act on your own behalf. Consult an attorney for more details.


Emergency Response System/Personal Response System (ERS/PRS) – A call button usually worn by the older individual that can summon help in case of emergency. Also called lifelines or personal emergency response systems.


Geriatric Care Manager – See Care/Case Manager (CM).




Gerontologist – A person who specializes in the study of the elderly. Usually has one or more advanced degrees in gerontology, social work or health and human services.


Guardianship – A court-appointed decision-maker to act on someone’s behalf because they are declared incompetent. May include guardianship of the person, estate (finances) or both. The guardian may or may not know this person, depending on the situation at the time of the appointment.


Home Health Aide (HHA) – A semiskilled professional, often employed by a home health agency, who provides in-home assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs).


Home Health Care – Includes a wide range of health-related services, such as assistance with medications, wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy and help with basic needs such as bathing, dressing, mobility, etc., which are delivered at a person’s home.


Homemaker Services – Help with light housekeeping, laundry, shopping and meal preparation.


Hospice – Nursing, companion, counseling and personal care services for people with terminal conditions. May be located in a facility such as a nursing home or hospital, or services may be delivered at home.




Independent Living (also called Retirement Centers or Communities) – Offer a wide range of services and amenities, from transportation to medical appointments to on-site social activities and beauty salons. Residents typically live in individual apartments, receive some housekeeping service, take most meals in a community dining room and require no assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs).


">Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) – Household/independent living tasks that include using the telephone, taking medications and managing finances.


">Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) – A health-care facility that provides care and services to individuals who do not need skilled nursing care, but whose mental or physical condition requires more than custodial care and services in an institutional setting.


">Living Will – A document that states a person’s preferences for future medical decisions, including the withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatments.


">Long-Term Care (LTC) – A range of services designed to help people who have disabilities or chronic care needs. Services may be short term or long term, and may be provided in a person’s home, in the community or in a residential facility.


">Managed Care – A health-care plan in which monthly premiums are paid for a complete package of services through a health maintenance organization (HMO) or similar type of provider.




Medicaid – Federal- and state-funded program of medical assistance to low-income individuals of all ages. There are income eligibility requirements for Medicaid. Contact your state Medicaid office for more information.


Medicare – Federal health insurance program for persons age 65 and over.


Medigap – Insurance supplement to Medicare that is designed to fill in the “gaps” left by Medicare (such as co-payments).


Nursing Home – Provides skilled nursing and rehabilitative care for individuals who need 24-hour care and assistance with any ADL. May also be called skilled nursing facility (SNF), intermediate care facility (ICF) or custodial care facility (CCF). Not all nursing homes are Medicare-approved facilities.


Older Americans Act (OAA) – A federal law enacted in 1965 to provide money for programs and direction for a multitude of services designed to enrich the lives of senior citizens.


Peer Review Organization (PRO) – Group paid by the federal government to review hospital treatment of Medicare patients. A patient has the right to appeal to a PRO if there is a question about care or length of stay.




Personal Care Assistance/Home Health Aide (PCA/HHA) – Nonmedical services to assist older persons in the home, such as bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, laundry and running errands.


Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) - A state program that uses Medicaid money to pay the Medicare deductibles and co-payments for persons whose income is low enough to qualify. Qualifying income is above the poverty level. Contact local Medicare office for eligibility information.


Respite Care – Service in which trained professionals or volunteers come into the home or provide short-term care at a nursing facility (from a few hours to a few days) for an older person to allow caregivers some time away from their caregiving role.


Senior Companion – Adults age 60 and over provide companionship to older adults with special needs. Companions volunteer 20 hours per week. Stipend and travel expenses are provided (companions must meet income guidelines).


Spend Down – Medicaid financial eligibility requirements are strict and may require beneficiaries to spend down/use up assets or income until they reach eligibility level.


Telephone Reassurance – A program in which volunteers or paid staff call homebound elders on a regular basis to provide contact, support and companionship.




Title III Services – Services provided to individuals age 60 and older funded under Title III of the Older Americans Act. Services include congregate and home-delivered meals; supportive services, such as transportation, information and referral, and legal assistance; in-home services, such as homemaker services, personal care and chore services; and health promotion and disease prevention services, such as health screenings and exercise programs. Contact the local agency on aging to see what services may be available in your elder’s region.




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