Elder Care Definitions

  • Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
    A scale that measures a person's ability to perform functions of daily living such as walking, bathing, getting out of the house, moving from bed to chair, dressing, and eating.
  • Adaptive/Assistive Devices
    Services and products that can be purchased or rented to help a person function better at home. These may include devices for the hearing impaired, people with vision problems, those who need help walking or moving about. For example - a spoon with built-up handle for someone with severely arthritic hands, or a long-handled shoe horn.
  • Adult Day Care Programs
    There are two types of adult day programs, social and medical, which offer supportive daytime group environments for independent older adults needing limited supervision and in medical day care, health services. Programs are structured, usually weekdays and feature activities, lunch, health and rehabilitation services for elderly people needing protective environment. Meals, snacks, programming, outings, support and counseling may be provided. Transportation is sometimes included in the fee.
  • Advance Directives
    Documents such as a living will and health care proxy which state in writing in advance your preference about how choices for health care are to be made for you in specific circumstances.
  • Alzheimer's Disease
    A progressive, degenerative disorder that affects tissues in the brain, eventually resulting in abnormal brain function.
  • Ambulation
    The process of walking.
  • Assisted Living Program (ALP)
    Contrary to what it is named, ALP is less of a true program and more of a funding source. Its goal is to provide long-term care for older adults as an alternative to institutionalized care. Like, Enriched Living, this is accomplished by adding services in an independent environment. It is paid for by Medicaid.
  • Caregiver
    Anyone who helps a spouse, parent, relative or friend with daily living.
  • Care Manager
    A social worker that evaluates, plans, locates, coordinates and monitors services with an older person and the family.
  • Care Planning
    Personal guidance from a social worker experienced in the needs of older adults and their families. Assists families in learning about resources and solutions to their unique situations.
  • Case Management
    A method of assessing a person's total care needs, arranging for necessary services, and coordinating their delivery.
  • Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA)
    In New York State, some home care agencies are designated as certified, which means they have met basic federal and state standards for financial management and patient care is approved by the NYS Health Department. Those who are eligible for home care under Medicare or Medicaid must utilize a certified agency.
  • Housekeeping Services
    Assistance with cleaning, meal preparation, laundry, escort and shopping. No personal care is provided.
  • Chronic Illness
    An illness marked by long duration or frequent reoccurrence such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and hypertension.
  • Community-Based Services
    Those services that are designed to help older people remain independent and in their own homes; can include senior centers, transportation, delivered meals or congregate meal sites, visiting nurses or home health aides, adult day care, and homemaker services.
  • Companion
    A minimally trained worker who provides assistance with shopping, laundry, cleaning, meal preparation, escort and personal care services such as bathing, grooming, and dressing. No nursing responsibilities are assumed. The worker may or may not receive agency supervision.
  • Continuing Care Communities
    Offer the benefits of living in apartments and houses, but with health care services and a nursing facility on the premises. Payment for nursing care and many other services is sometimes made in advance. Services are provided under a contractual arrangement guaranteeing shelter and services for as long as you remain in the facility.
  • Dementia
    The loss of intellectual abilities (such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning) or sufficient severity to interfere with a person's daily functioning. It is not a disease in itself, but rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain diseases or physical conditions.
  • Discharge Planner
    A member of the professional staff of a hospital or nursing home who develops a plan of future care for a patient prior to discharge.
  • DNR
    "Do Not Resuscitate." An order in a patient's medical record to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Also called "no code."
  • (Personal) Emergency Response System (Also see Lifeline)
    Includes equipment hooked to the telephone line and a wireless signal button worn by the older adult or set up in the bathroom or bedroom. Allows older people to transmit a distress signal (i.e. emergency/fall) to an emergency telephone number. Trained responders are available 24 hours a day to provide assistance.
  • Enriched Housing
    A system of programs and services that allow residents who may fall in between levels of care to maintain their residence at home or in an independent living facility. Services are comparable to those of home and community based care.
  • Financial Planning
    A coordinated integrated, ongoing process of managing an individual's financial concerns.
  • Friendly Visitor
    A volunteer who regularly visits an older person and provides companionship. Volunteers receive training and orientation to the needs of older people.
  • Geriatric Assessment
    Provides a comprehensive evaluation of a person's physical, psychological, and social condition by a physician, nurse, social worker and other medical staff as needed. It’s offered by hospitals and social service agencies.
  • Guardian Person
    A person appointed by the court in a formal proceeding to act as the legal representative of a person who is mentally or physically incapable of managing his or her own affairs.
  • Guardianship
    An extreme measure that severely restricts the legal rights of an elder based on a court's finding of legal incompetence. Can be appointed by the court to protect an elder's property, conduct daily financial affairs, or arrange for services.
  • Home Health Aide (HHA)
    Provides personal care and some household services under the direction of a nurse from a home health agency.
  • Health Care Proxy
    Allows a designated person to decide on the health care on an incapacitated person.
  • Home Health Care
    Services rendered in the home to a disabled, sick or convalescent person who does not need institutional care. The services may be provided by a visiting nurse association, home health agency, hospital or organized community group, and may include nursing service, speech or other therapy, social and homemaker services.
  • Home Care Services
    Can meet many needs from help with household chores and personal care like dressing, shopping, eating and bathing, to nursing care and physical, occupational, or speech therapy.
  • Hospice Programs
    Provide support and care for persons in the last phases of terminal illness. Hospice care can be given in the patient's home, the home of a friend or family member, or in certain nursing homes. Most hospice expenses are covered by major health insurances, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • I-ADL (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living)
    Functions needed to live in the community independently, such as grocery shopping, preparing meals, communicating, transporting either by car or public transportation, socialization, etc.
  • ILS (Independent Living Services)
    Loretto's PACE Program providing an alternative to nursing home placement.
  • Incapacity
    Can be mental or physical, temporary or permanent. A person can be incapacitated without being incompetent, but a test must be met.
  • Incontinence
    Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Informal Network
    Families, friends and neighbors who provide unpaid assistance to older people.
  • In-Home Care
    Assistance with the daily tasks of living. May include chores, housekeeping, home health care, homemaker services, companionship, counseling, meals, respite, emergency response system and telephone reassurance services.
  • Letters Testamentary
    Letters issued by a court empowering an executor of a will to act.
  • Levels of Care
    Care in an institution and at home is related by levels ranging upward from the care given at home to care provided in a supportive housing setting, hospital, and nursing home.
  • Licensed Agency
    In NYS all home care agencies which provide nursing, home health aides, and personal care services must be licensed which means they have met state regulations and standards.
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
    LPNs are in charge of nursing in the absence of a registered nurse (RN). LPNs often give medications and perform treatments and are licensed by the state.
  • Lifeline
    See (Personal) Emergency Response System.
  • Living Will
    A document that makes a person's wishes regarding medical treatments at the end of life known.
  • Long Term Care
    A comprehensive range of medical, personal, and social services delivered over time to meet the needs of chronically ill or disabled persons.
  • Long Term Care Facilities
    A range of institutions that provide various levels of care (maintenance, personal, nursing) to people who are unable to care for themselves and who may have health problems ranging from minimal to very serious.
  • Managed Care
    Is a system which includes a full range of integrated health care services, facilities and products and has the patient's access to services coordinated and managed by a primary care provider.
  • Meals on Wheels (MOW)
    Prepares and delivers meals to the elderly and homebound. Special dietary needs are accommodated.
  • Medicaid
    Government-funded Medical Assistance program pays the cost of medical care for people with limited income and resources. It has stringent financial requirements that vary from state to state.
  • Medicare
    This is the federal health insurance companion program to the Social Security system. Medicare will pay for periodic, skilled home health care or skilled nursing care in a nursing home but only under stringent conditions and restrictions. Services most needed, personal care and supportive services provided by homemaker/home health aide, are only covered by Medicare if the services are provided in conjunction with skilled nursing or rehabilitative services.
  • Non-Skilled
    Services such as bathing, grooming, personal care and meal preparation provided by supportive staff such as nurses' aides.
  • Nursing Home
    A residential facility in which a full range of medical, housing, food, and social services are provided 24 hours a day. To enter a nursing home in many states an assessment of need in the form of a PRI (patient review instrument) must be completed to establish medical eligibility.
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
    A RN with advanced training who can perform physicals, etc.
  • Nutrition and Hydration
    For a patient who can not eat independently, life can also be sustained by artificial food and water given intravenously or by inserting a tube through the nose or stomach.
  • Occupational Therapy (OT)
    Assesses, develops and maintains skills necessary for independence in daily living. May be beneficial to those experiencing cognitive, perceptual, psycho-social or motor problems that are interfering with activities of daily living.
  • Ombudsman
    A trained person who investigates consumer complaints against a nursing home or community resident facility.
  • PACE (Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly)
    Provides an alternative to nursing home care. Older adults who are frail, yet prefer to remain in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of their homes can be provided medical, social, rehabilitative and supportive services by the PACE multi-disciplinary health care team. Also see ILS.
  • Physical Therapy (PY)
    Rehabilitation concerned with restoration of function and prevention of disability following disease, injury or loss of body part.
  • Power of Attorney
    A legal document allowing one person to act in legal matters on another's behalf. Powers may be limited or unlimited, general or specific.
  • Pre-Existing Condition
    A medical condition that was known before the effective date on the insurance policy.
  • PRI (Patient Review Instrument)
    A form used to categorize a nursing home eligible person into a category for purpose of reimbursement.
  • Personal Emergency Response System
    Communication devices that allow individuals at home to signal for emergency assistance by pushing a button.
  • Private Pay
    A term used to define the ability of a person to pay the cost of services with personal income or assets.
  • Protective Services
    Support for severely disabled elders who may be abused, neglected, or exploited. Available from family service agencies or social service agencies.
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
    A graduate nurse who has completed at least two years at an accredited nursing school. RNs are trained in providing skilled nursing care, including administration of medications, and treatment. Licensed by the state.
  • RHCF (Residential Health Care Facility)
    Refers to a skilled nursing facility/nursing home where people who need extensive and extended health or personal care reside.
  • Respite Care
    Provides short-term relief to people who care for an older person at home. The respite can be for a few hours or several days. It may be provided at home, at adult day care centers, at hospitals or assisted living facilities overnight.
  • Senior Housing
    Housing usually subsidized by the local, state or federal government.
  • Skilled Nursing
    Services that must be provided by a licensed nurse (RN or LPN), physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist.
  • Social Worker (See also Special Care Manager)
    A person who can help coordinate care with other programs and services not provided by the agency involved, and can help with financial and insurance planning and paperwork.
  • Speech Therapy (ST)
    Assesses and develops receptive and expressive language and speech skills. Evaluates swallowing ability and recommends techniques and foods to promote safety.
  • Spend Down
    When individuals deplete their income and assets and thereby meet Medicaid financial eligibility requirements.
  • Social Security Income (SSI)
    An income supplement for aged, blind, or disabled clients (including non-cash income designated for basic needs), whose income does not exceed an established monthly minimum. An application and personal finance statement must be provided to the Department of Social Services' SSI division (1-800-772-1213).
  • Support Group
    A group of people that meets regularly and consists of those who share a common life situation, such as caring for a dying spouse or a parent with Alzheimer's or cancer. Groups are usually led by a professional. Sometimes a nominal fee is charged; many are free.
  • Supportive Living
    Housing for those adults who can no longer live independently, but do not require the intensive care offered by a nursing facility. Supportive living services include: medication monitoring, bathing supervision, dressing assistance, 24-hour staffing, housekeeping, laundry and linen services, meals, etc.
  • Third Party Payor Source
    An outside agent who is responsible for reimbursement for medical services either solely or in conjunction with payment from the recipient's private funds. Examples: Medicare, Medicaid, Commercial Insurance, Champus, etc.
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