Senior Care Glossary: Must Know Elder Care Terminology

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): A term used in healthcare to refer to an individual’s daily self-care activities necessary for independent living. The 5 basic categories include personal hygiene, dressing, eating, maintaining continence, and mobility. 


Aging in Place: The act of a senior remaining at home or the residence of their choice for as long as they can as they remain aging which can be facilitated through assistance in the home as a senior's needs change.


Alzheimer's: The most common form of dementia which occurs in 60-80% of all seniors with dementia which involves the deterioration of someone's memory and mental function. While no cure currently exists, medication and management strategies can help reduce common symptoms.


Assisted Living: This form of housing for seniors provides personalized care in a safe environment. Typically, residents of an assisted living facility live in an apartment-style community while receiving help with day-to-day activities that they are unable to perform independently. 


Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): A healthcare position found in a variety of settings, such as nursing homes, hospitals, or assisted living facilities. This person is responsible for general care such as recording vital signs and assistance with mobility, eating, and personal hygiene. They are also responsible for medical tasks such as setting up equipment and observing patients.


Dementia: A condition which involves the steady decline of mental health and can be diagnosed by a person developing at least two brain functions, typically memory loss and judgement. The most common form is Alzheimer's. All forms of dementia have no cure but can be managed with a mix of medication ad coping strategies.  


Durable Medical Equipment (DME): Any long-term, reusable device that provides therapeutic benefits to patients due to a medical condition, illness, or disability which must primarily serve a medical purpose, be prescribed or ordered by a medical provider, can be used over and over again, be appropriate for home use, and will not be useful to patients without an injury, disability, or illness. For more information on DME, visit


Elder Care Attorneys: This specialized attorney advocates for seniors and their loved ones. They handle a variety of issues related to the elderly including health care, long-term care planning, retirement, assisted living, and Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid. 


Home Health Aide (HHA): A healthcare position found in settings such as assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and the senior’s private home. This role focuses on daily activities such as mobility and personal hygiene, as well as, the recording of vital signs. A Home Health Aide also acts as a companion for the senior, with the intention of allowing them to remain as independent as possible. 


Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A health insurance organization or network which provides health services to a payer for a fixed reoccurring (monthly/yearly) fee. 


Home Health Care: Health care, either medical or non-medical, which is provided within a patient’s home. This can include assistance with ADLs, medications, and rehabilitation. 


Independent Home Care: Health care provided within the senior’s home by a caregiver hired directly by the senior’s family. The family does so with no intermediary agency. Instead, they take on the role of employer. The caregiver may provide personal and/or medical care. 


In-Stay Respite Care: This is short-term care spent at a senior living community. Typically, seniors who use this type of care are recovering from a hospital stay or want to try out a senior living community before committing to moving in full time. 


Long-term Care Insurance: This type of insurance invests in your potential needs that come along with aging. It may cover nursing homes, assisted living, home care, home modifications, and other care services. Some plans may be offered through an employer while others are individually purchased.  


Medicare: This federal health insurance program is open to people 65 and older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). The program is divided into 3 parts: hospital insurance, medical insurance, and prescription drug coverage. For more information, visit or  


Medicaid: This program provides health coverage to low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and other eligible groups. The program assists with prescriptions, long-term services, and a variety of other health needs. Find detailed information on Medicaid at or


Non-Medical Agency Home Care: A company providing caregivers to assist seniors with their activities of daily living. Being that that these caregivers are non-medical, they do not have formal medical training and are unable to administer medications; although they can assist with medication reminders. 


Nursing Home: This form of housing for seniors provides care around the clock for patients with more complex health conditions. These long-term accommodations more closely resemble a health institution.


Pleural Mesothelioma: A type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos which forms in the lining of the lungs. This is the most common type of Mesothelioma. By treating Pleural Mesothelioma at an early stage, prognosis can be improved. Visit to learn more and find assistance with managing treatment.


Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF): A health care facility which has at least one nurse, but typically a variety of health care professions, which can provide 24 hour nursing care to patients. Most patients are required to go here after a hospital stay until they are able to return home.


Sundowners Syndrome: A phenomenon typically occurring in seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia which involves the onset of increased delirium (symptoms like increased restlessness, confusion, anxiety, and/or aggression) in the late afternoon, evening, and night.


Telehealth: Health services (education, self-care, consults) provided via digital technology (computer, phone, etc.) to offer these services remotely and to better support and facilitate patient care.

Veterans Affairs (VA): A veteran or surviving spouse is eligible for the VA’s Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit if the veteran was honorably discharged with 90 days of active duty, one day beginning or ending during a period of war. Wartime periods include:  

  • World War I: 4/6/1917 – 11/11/1918 
  • World War II: 12/7/1941 – 12/31/1946 
  • Korean Conflict: 6/27/1950 – 1/31/1955 
  • Vietnam Era: 8/5/1964 – 5/7/1975 

Medically, the senior in consideration must be in need of help with ADLs, be blind, be in a nursing home, or be residing in an assisted living/personal care facility. 

Financially, a veteran's monthly income, liquid assets, and monthly medical expenses will be considered. Below shows the maximum benefit as of 1/1/2015: 

  • $1,788 for a single veteran 
  • $2,120 for a married veteran and their spouse 
  • $1,149 for a widowed spouse 
  • $2,837 for a veteran with a spouse needing care 

For more information on VA health care and benefit options please visit,, or