Healthy Aging Glossary
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Activities of Daily Living—Also called ADL's, these are the
basic tasks of everyday living, including eating, dressing, bathing, and
other personal care tasks.
Adult Day Center—Also called adult day services, adult day care
centers, or adult day health centers, these facilities provide regular
daytime care to older adults for socialization, recreation, help with
personal care, safety, and in some cases, health and
Adult Family Homes—Single-family, private residences that have been
licensed to provide room, board and support services to a small number
(usually from 4 to 6) of older adults.
Advance Directive—A legal document that allows you to make statements
about your healthcare in case you are unable to do so at a later time.
(See Durable Power of Attorney; Health Care Directive.)
Aerobic Exercise—Exercise that strengthens the heart and lungs so
that oxygen is more efficiently delivered.
Area Agency on Aging—The local or regional agency established under
the Federal Older Americans Act to coordinate and provide a wide variety
of services to the elderly.
Assisted Living—Assisted living facilities offer private, homelike
living space (for example, an apartment or cottage) with some of the
same services a nursing facility can offer, including help with personal
care needs and some health care services. Most facilities also include
housekeeping, meals and an activity program.
Care Conferences—Meetings held within a skilled nursing facility to
devise and carry out a plan of care for the resident. Care conferences
are attended by the care team, made up of key personnel in the facility,
the resident's physician, the resident, and family members if the
resident wishes to include them.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities—CCRCs are retirement
communities that include various levels of care—from independent living,
to assisted living, to skilled nursing care. Residents typically must
move in when they are relatively healthy.
Dementia—Disorders of the brain (including Alzheimer's disease and
other illnesses) that result in a decline in the memory and other
Discharge Planning—A service provided through hospitals to help place
a convalescing patient in an appropriate care setting, or to arrange
appropriate services at home or other lesser care location.
Durable Medical Equipment—Home care equipment that is used over an
extended period of time (such as oxygen delivery system, hospital bed,
Durable Power of Attorney—A legal document often included as part of
a person's estate planning. In it, the person names an "attorney in
fact" or "agent" to act on his or her behalf in business and/or
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care—Also called a Health Care
Appointment or a Health Care Proxy. This is a legal document that lets
you give someone else the power to make health care decisions for you,
if a time comes that you can't speak for yourself.
Eldercare Locator—A nationwide toll-free telephone number and online
service from the U.S. Administration on Aging. (1-800-677-1116 or
Geriatric Care Manager—An eldercare professional, usually a nurse or
social worker, who can do assessments, give guidance, and help families
develop and implement a plan of care for frail older adults.
Guardianship—A legal proceeding in which a person is appointed by the
court to control and manage another person's affairs and/or
property—most typically when the person is incapacitated and unable to
act on his/her own.
Health Care Appointment—See Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
Health Care Directive—Also called a Living Will. This is a document
that lets you say what kinds of care you would want and not want if you
were nearing the end of your life. Usually deals with life-sustaining
Health Care Representative—Also called agent, surrogate. A
representative designated to make decisions about a person's medical
care when the person can't speak for him- or herself.
Home Care—Sometimes call personal care, this is supportive services
provided in a person's home; it may include hands-on help with
activities of daily living, meal preparation, transportation, and light
Home Health Care—Health care services provided in the home; includes
home health aides; certified nursing aides (CNA); registered nurses
(RN); rehabilitation services; durable medical equipment; social
Home Helper—a person who comes into your home to provide help with
personal (non-medical) care needs and household chores. (Also called
Home Sharing—An arrangement in which two or more people share the
same home. Many communities have formal or informal coordinating
services to connect people who are interested in home sharing.
Hospice Care—Care for the terminally ill and their families,
emphasizing pain management and controlling symptoms, rather than
seeking a cure. Offered by hospitals, long-term care facilities and
hospice organizations, on an inpatient basis or at home.
Incontinence—Leaking or loss of control of urine. It can result from
a variety of causes, and can often be treated through exercise,
medication or surgery.
Independent Living Retirement Communities—(also called Congregate
Care Communities) Retirement communities offer independent senior
living, serving seniors who are generally in good health and able to
live independently. They typically offer services such as housekeeping,
transportation, exercise facility, etc.
Informed Consent—Your right to be in charge of your own healthcare by
having your medical situation and proposed treatment explained to you in
language you understand; and your right to give or refuse consent for
Infusion Therapy—Intravenous (IV) medications, such as antibiotics,
pain relief drugs, nutritional infusion or chemotherapy.
Living Will—See Health Care Directive.
Long-Term Care Insurance—Private insurance designed to cover all or part
of the cost of care in a nursing facility or, under many policies, home
Meals On Wheels—Community-based meal service that delivers meals to
the homes of older adults at a modest charge.
Medicaid—A joint state/federal program which helps pay the medical
expenses of low-income individuals who meet the program's qualifying
Medicare—The federal program that provides health insurance for
persons 65 and over, for persons with permanent kidney failure, and
those with certain disabilities.
Medicare Supplement ("Medigap") Insurance—Private insurance programs
designed primarily to cover Medicare deductibles and co-payments.
Nursing Homes—See Skilled Nursing Facility
Ombudsman—In long term care, this is typically a professional or
trained volunteer who acts as an advocate and resource for residents
living and receiving care in a nursing home or assisted living
community; in most states, the long term care ombudsman program plays an
important role in identifying and correcting problems in care
facilities, and access to the ombudsman is a right of every resident.
Palliative Care—Medical care designed not to cure disease or halt
adverse medical conditions, but to minimize symptoms and control pain.
Physiologic reserve—the ability of the body's systems to function
effectively, and to fight off or bounce back from illnesses. Physiologic
reserve decreases with age, illness and inactivity.
Power of Attorney—A legal document that gives another person legal
authority to act on one's behalf. (See Durable Power of Attorney)
Respite Care—Temporary care for a person, provided by a home health
care agency or other provider, in order to give the person's regular
caretaker rest and personal time. Respite care can be in the home, at an
adult day center, or in a long-term care facility or hospital.
Reverse Mortgage—A loan against your house that allows you to convert
part of your equity into cash; the loan and interest are paid back when
the home is sold or the owner dies.
Senior Information and Referral—Also called Senior Information and
Assistance or Senior I & A, this is the telephone and/or online referral
service operated by the Area Agency on Aging in each community; in
almost all communities, this is the primary access point for identifying
services and resources for older adults and family caregivers.
Skilled Nursing Facility—Also called Nursing Homes, these facilities
play two important roles: they provide rehabilitation or "subacute care"
for people who have just been discharged from the hospital but are not
medically or physically able to return home; and they provide extended
long-term care to frail or chronically ill persons who require a higher
level of skilled nursing and medical supervision than is available in
Social Security—The U.S. government's safety net, a program to help
provide a continuing income for people who are retired or disabled, paid
for by the taxes of most employed Americans.