More Than Words. Elder Care Medical Lingo & Their Meaning

More Than Words. Elder Care Medical Lingo & Their Meaning

Posted on June 13, 2014 by ElderCare Phoenix in Blog, Caregiver Education, Education, Home Care Non-Medical, Hospice & Palliative Care, Medicare / Medicaid, Rehabilitation Center, Respite Care

Elder Care Medical Lingo

Providing care to a loved can be challenging especially when there are so many new medical lingos caregivers needs to learn and add to their vocabulary. This also comes with abbreviations and acronyms such HTN, HLD, which can make caregiving harder, confusing and overwhelming.

TIP: As a caregiver, we encourage you to ask as many questions as possible when interacting with health care professionals. Demand the use of “plain language” when a doctor is explaining a new diagnosis or treatment plan.

We have below a list of commonly used words related to elder and senior health care written in simple, everyday language. Hope this helps. Feel free to post your questions, email


Activities of daily living (ADLs)

These are activities performed by a person in the course of a normal day including bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, walking, taking medications, and other forms of personal care.

Advance directive

Documents specifying a person’s preferences if he or she is unable to make health care decisions due to incapacity. These often include a durable power of health care attorney (grants health care decision-making authority to another individual), a living will (lays out specific wishes regarding medical treatment), and a health care proxy (names an individual to serve as a health care decision-making surrogate).

Adult day care

Adult day care centers offer social, recreational and health-related services to seniors who can’t be left alone because they’re confused or disabled or because they have special health or social needs.

Adult foster care

Arrangements that allow a vulnerable adult to live in the home of a host family willing to provide a bedroom, meals, personal care, 24 hour supervision and companionship.

Assistive technology/adaptive devices

Equipment that helps an older person function. This may be something as simple as a walker that helps someone move around or an amplification device that makes it easier to use the telephone.


Caregiver (Family Caregiver) is a person, either paid or voluntary, who helps an older person, loved one with the activities of daily living, health care, financial matters, guidance, companionship and social interaction.

Case manager

Case managers work with family members and older adults to assess and arrange needed services.

Chronic disease

Illnesses that have one or more of these characteristics: they aren’t subject to permanent cure, leave residual disability, and typically require some type of sustained, ongoing care or treatment. Examples include diabetes and arthritis.

Cognitive impairment

This when a patient exhibits deterioration or loss of intellectual capacity. This can include impaired short- or long-term memory, problems with deductive or abstract reasoning, and disorientation with regard to time, place and other people.

Continuing care retirement community (CCRC)

Residents move between different levels of care on these health care campuses for seniors, as their needs warrant. People can live independently, in assisted living facilities, or move into a nursing home. Residents pay monthly fees and sometimes large entrance fees. Meals, housekeeping laundry, social services, and personal care services are available on site.

Custodial care

Care that doesn’t require specialized medical training, such as cooking, cleaning or accompanying someone to a doctor’s appointment.

Do not resuscitate order (DNR)

A physician’s order written in a patient’s medical record indicating that medical providers should not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Elder abuse

This is any intentional or negligent act that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual, exploitation, neglect, or abandonment.

Geriatric care managers (GCMs)

Professionals with special expertise in geriatric care who consult with families and older adults and provide case management services.


A medical specialty focused on treatment the health problems of older people


The study of the biological, psychological, and social processes of aging.

Rehabilitation services

These non-medical services help people with mental or physical disabilities care for themselves and live independently. Examples include case management and help with grocery shopping, personal hygiene, budgeting, communication skills, social skills and vocational skills.

Home health care

Various health services provided in a patient’s home, under the direction of a physician.

Homecare service

Non-medical services for people who need assistance performing household duties. These can include light housekeeping, laundry, limited personal care, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and shopping.


Care of people with terminal illnesses, that emphasizes pain control, symptom management and emotional and social support rather than life-sustaining treatments. Care are provided at home or in an institutional setting.

Living will

This is a document indicating a person’s desire for treatment (or not) in the event he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to make health care decisions.

Long-term care

A range of medical, nursing, social, and community services designed to help people with chronic health impairments over an extended period.

Long-term care insurance

An insurance policy that covers long term care expenses in a facility or at home. Terms of policies differ widely.


This is a joint state/federal health program for people with very low incomes, severe disabilities, and impoverished seniors. The states administer Medicaid.


This is a national health program for seniors (age 65 and older), people with serious disabilities and patients with end-stage kidney disease.

Palliative care

This medical discipline focuses on the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of a patient. The goal is to achieve the best quality of life by relieving suffering and controlling pain and symptoms.

Post-acute care (sub-acute care)

Short-term care provided to patients who aren’t acutely ill and don’t belong in an inpatient hospital ward but who aren’t well enough to go home. Services can include rehabilitation and specialized care for conditions such as stroke. Can be provided at a long-term care facility or a special hospital unit.

Residential care

This type of care falls between nursing homes and home health care. It’s broadly defined as 24-hour supervision of people who need some assistance because of old age or impairments. Room, board and personal care are included. Residential care is provided in groups homes and other settings.

Respite care

The provision of short-term relief (respite) to families and/or caregivers caring for frail elders. Respite services can be provided at home or at adult day care or skilled nursing centers.

Sandwich Generation Families

20 million+ families who are caregivers for two generations: their children, both young kids and young adults, and their elderly parents.

Published: CareNovate