The following is a glossary of terms which may be helpful in your search for the right type of senior care.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

Physical functions that an individual performs each day, including bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, walking or wheeling, and transferring into and out of bed. Questions about ADLs help decide what type of care a person needs.

Administration on Aging

An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AOA is an advocate agency for older persons and their concerns at the federal level. AOA works closely with its nationwide network of State and Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).

Advanced Directives

A written statement of an individual's preferences and directions regarding health care. Advanced Directives protect a person’s rights even if he or she becomes mentally or physically unable to choose or communicate his or her wishes.


Determination of a resident's care needs, based upon a formal, structured evaluation of the resident's physical and psychological condition and ability to perform activities of daily living.

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's is a disease that causes dementia. Problems with memory, thinking and behavior are the effects. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.


The Primary person in charge of caring for an individual, usually a family member or a designated health care professional.

Certified Nursing Aide (CNA)

The CNA provides personal care to residents or patients, such as bathing, dressing, changing linens, transporting and other essential activities. CNAs are trained, tested, and certified and work under the supervision of an RN or LVN.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Formerly the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration, CMS is an element of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, which finances and administers the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Among other responsibilities, CMS establishes standards for the operation of nursing facilities that receive funds under the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

Cognitive Abilities

Mental abilities such as judgement, memory, learning, comprehension and reasoning.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

A rare disorder of infectious and genetic origin that typically causes memory failure and behavioral changes.


The loss of intellectual functions, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, of sufficient severity to interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Dementia is not a disease itself but rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or conditions. Symptoms may also include changes in personality, mood and behavior. Dementia is irreversible when caused by a disease or injury – but may be reversible when caused by drugs, alcohol, hormone or vitamin imbalances or depression.

Durable Power of Attorney

A legal document in which a competent person gives another person (called an attorney-in-fact) the power to make health care decisions for him or her if unable to make those decisions. A DPA can include guidelines for the attorney-in-fact to follow in making decisions on behalf of the incompetent person.

Elder Law

A branch of the law that serves the needs of the elderly and the disabled as well as their family. Elder Law covers range of client issues, both legal and financial such as, guardianship, conservatorship, power of attorney, estate planning (wills and trusts), Medicaid planning, probate, and estate administration, and advanced directives. Read More

Health Care Directive

A written legal document which allows a person to appoint another person (agent) to make health care decisions should he or she be unable to make or communicate decisions.

Health Care Power of Attorney

The appointment of a health care agent to make decisions when the principal becomes unable to make or communicate decisions.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

This 1996 federal law/legislation provides nationwide data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

Lewy body Dementia

A dementing illness associated with protein deposits called Lewy bodies found in cortex of the brain.

Living Will

A legal document in which a competent person directs in advance that artificial life-prolonging treatment not be used if he or she has or develops a terminal or irreversible condition and becomes incompetent to make health care decisions.

Long Term Care (LTC)

The broad spectrum of medical and support services provided to persons who have lost some or all capacity to function on their own due to a chronic illness or condition, and who are expected to need such services over a prolonged period of time. Long term care can consist of care in the home by family members who are assisted with voluntary or employed help, adult day health care, or care in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.

Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI)

Long-term care insurance can pay for necessary medical and caregiving needs, depending on your policy. It can be provided in a variety of settings: your home, Assisted Living, Adult Foster Home, etc.


The federally supported, state operated public assistance program that pays for health care services to people with a low income, including the elderly or disabled persons who qualify. Medicaid pays for long term nursing facility care, some limited home health services, and may pay for some assisted living services, depending upon the state.


The federal program providing primarily skilled medical care and medical insurance for people aged 65 and older, some disabled persons and those with end-stage renal disease.

Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE)

A standard mental status exam routinely used to measure a person’s basic cognitive skills, such as short-term memory, long-term memory, orientation, writing, and language.

Mixed Dementia

Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia coexist but this can also describe Alzheimer’s and coexisting forms of other dementias.

Multi-Infarct Dementia (MID)

A form of dementia, also known as vascular dementia, caused by a number of strokes in the brain. These strokes can affect some intellectual abilities, impair motor and walking skills, and cause an individual to experience hallucinations, delusions, or depression.

Music Therapy

Use of music to improve physical, psychological, cognitive and social functioning.

Nurse, Licensed Vocational (LVN)

A graduate of a state-approved nursing education program, who has passed a state examination and been licensed to provide nursing and personal care under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician. An LVN administers medications and treatments and acts as a charge nurse in nursing facilities.

Nurse, Registered (RN)

Nurses who have graduated from a formal program of nursing education (two-year associate degree, three-year hospital diploma, or four-year baccalaureate) and passed a state-administered exam. RNs have completed more formal training than licensed practical nurses and have a wide scope of responsibility including all aspects of nursing care.

Occupational Therapy

Services provided to those individuals who are unable to cope with the tasks of everyday living and who are threatened or impaired by physical illness or injury, psychosocial disability, or development deficits. Occupational therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation agencies, long-term care facilities, and other health-care organizations.

Parkinsona's Disease

A progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by the death of nerve cells in a specific area of the brain; the cause of nerve cell death is unknown. Parkinson patients lack the neurotransmitter dopamine and have such symptoms as tremors, speech impediments, movement difficulties and often dementia later in the course of the disease.

Physical Therapy

Services provided by specially trained and licensed physical therapists in order to relieve pain, restore maximum function, and prevent disability or injury.

Picks Disease

Type of dementia in which degeneration of nerve cells causes dramatic alterations in personality and social behavior but typically does not affect memory until later in the disease.

Power of Attorney

A legal document allowing one person to act in a legal manner on another’s behalf pursuant to financial or real-estate transactions.

Respite Care

Services that provide people with temporary relief from tasks associated with caregiving (in home assistance, short nursing home stays, adult day care).

Reverse Mortgage

When you have a regular mortgage, you pay the lender every month to buy your home over time. In a reverse mortgage, you get a loan in which the lender pays you. Reverse mortgages take part of the equity in your home and convert it into payments to you – a kind of advance payment on your home equity. The money you get usually is tax-free. Generally, you don’t have to pay back the money for as long as you live in your home. When you die, sell your home, or move out, you, your spouse, or your estate would repay the loan.

Skilled Nursing Care

Nursing and rehabilitative care that can be performed only by, or under the supervision of, licensed and skilled medical personnel.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)

Provides 24-hour nursing care for chronically-ill or short-term rehabilitative residents of all ages.

Speech Therapy

This type of service helps individuals overcome communication conditions such as aphasia, swallowing difficulties and voice disorders. Medicare may cover some of the costs of speech therapy after client meets certain requirements.

Sun downing

Unsettled behavior evident in the late afternoon or early evening.

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