Glossary of Terms


As required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, removal of barriers that would hinder a person with a disability from entering, functioning, and working within a facility. Required restructuring of the facility cannot cause undue hardship for the employer.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Basic personal activities which include bathing, eating, dressing, mobility, transferring from bed to chair, and using the toilet. ADLs are used to measure how dependent a person may be on requiring assistance in performing any or all of these activities.

Adult Day Care
A daytime community-based program for functionally impaired adults that provides a variety of health, social, and related support services in a protective setting.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
A 1967 federal law that prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of age in hiring, job retention, compensation, and benefits. ADEA also sets requirements for the duration of employer-provided disability benefits.

Alzheimer's Disease
A progressive, irreversible disease characterized by degeneration of the brain cells and serve loss of memory, causing the individual to become dysfunctional and dependent upon others for basic living needs.

Ambulatory Care
All types of health services which are provided on an outpatient basis, in contrast to services provided in the home or to persons who are inpatients. While many inpatients may be ambulatory, the term ambulatory care usually implies that the patient must travel to a location to receive services which do not require an overnight stay.

Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living (AAA&IL)
A local (city or county) agency, funded under the federal Older Americans Act, that plans and coordinates various social and health service programs for persons 60 years of age or more. The network of AAA offices consists of more than 600 approved agencies.

Assistive Devices
Tools that enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential job functions, e.g., telephone headsets, adapted computer keyboards, enhanced computer monitors.

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Care Plan
(Also called service plan or treatment plan.) Written document which outlines the types and frequency of the long-term care services that a consumer receives. It may include treatment goals for him or her for a specified time period.

Person who provides support and assistance with various activities to a family member, friend, or neighbor. May provide emotional or financial support, as well as hands-on help with different tasks. Caregiving may also be done from long distance.

Care/Case Management
Offers a single point of entry to the aging services network. Care/case management assess clients' needs, create service plans, and coordinate and monitor services; they may operate privately or may be employed by social service agencies or public programs. Typically case managers are nurses or social workers.

Chore Services
Help with chores such as home repairs, yard work, and heavy housecleaning.

Chronic Illness
Long-term or permanent illness (e.g., diabetes, arthritis) which often results in some type of disability and which may require a person to seek help with various activities.

Cognitive Impairment
Deterioration or loss of intellectual capacity which requires continual supervision to protect the insured or others, as measured by clinical evidence and standardized tests that reliably measure impairment in the area of (1) short or long-term memory, (2) orientation as to person, place and time, or (3) deductive or abstract reasoning. Such loss in intellectual capacity can result from Alzheimer's disease or similar forms of senility or Irreversible Dementia.

Community-Based Services
services designed to help older people remain independent and in their own homes; can include senior centers, transportation, delivered meals or congregate meals site, visiting nurses or home health aides, adult day care, and homemaker services.

Custodial Care
Care that does not require specialized training or services. (See also personal care.)

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Term which describes a group of diseases (including Alzheimer's Disease) which are characterized by memory loss and other declines in mental functioning.

Developmental Disability (DD)
A disability which originates before age 18, can be expected to continue indefinitely, and constitutes a substantial handicap to the disabled's ability to function normally.

The limitation of normal physical, mental, social activity of an individual. There are varying types (functional, occupational, learning), degrees (partial, total), and durations (temporary, permanent) of disability. Benefits are often available only for specific disabilities, such as total and permanent (the requirement for Social Security and Medicare).

Durable Medical Equipment (DME)
(Also called home medical equipment.) Equipment such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and prosthetics used at home. May be covered by Medicaid and in part by Medicare or private insurance.

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Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
Services utilized in responding to the perceived individual need for immediate treatment for medical, physiological, or psychological illness or injury.

Escort Services
(Also called transportation services.) Provides transportation for older adults to services and appointments. May use bus, taxi, volunteer drivers, or van services that can accommodate wheelchairs and persons with other special needs.

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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
A 1993 federal law requiring employers with more than 50 employees to provide eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for birth, adoptions, foster care placement, and illnesses of employees and their families.

Functionally Disabled
A person with a physical or mental impairment that limits the individual's capacity for independent living.

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Physician who is certified in the care of older people.

Medical specialty focusing on treatment of health problems of the elderly.

Study of the biological, psychological and social processes of aging.

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The state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It is recognized, however, that health has many dimensions (anatomical, physiological, and mental) and is largely culturally defined. The relative importance of various disabilities will differ depending upon the cultural milieu and the role of the affected individual in that culture. Most attempts at measurement have been assessed in terms or morbidity and mortality.

Home Health Agency (HHA)
A public or private organization that provides home health services supervised by a licensed health professional in the patient's home either directly or through arrangements with other organizations.

Home Health Aide
A person who, under the supervision of a home health or social service agency, assists elderly, ill or disabled person with household chores, bathing, personal care, and other daily living needs. Social service agency personnel are sometimes called personal care aides.

Home Health Care
Includes a wide range of health-related services such as assistance with medications, wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy, and help with basic needs such as bathing, dressing, mobility, etc., which are delivered at a person's home.

Home Medical Equipment
(Also called durable medical equipment.) Equipment such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and prosthetics used at home. May be covered by Medicaid and in part by Medicare or private insurance.

One of the requirements to qualify for Medicare home health care. Means that someone is generally unable to leave the house, and if they do leave home, it is only for a short time (e.g., for a medical appointment) and requires much effort.

Homemaker Services
In-home help with meal preparation, shopping, light housekeeping, money management, personal hygiene and grooming, and laundry.

A program which provides palliative and supportive care for terminally ill patients and their families, either directly or on a consulting basis with the patient's physician or another community agency. The whole family is considered the unit of care, and care extends through their period of mourning.

Hospice Care
Services for the terminally ill provided in the home, a hospital, or a long-term care facility. Includes home health services, volunteer support, grief counseling, and pain management.

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Any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological, or anatomical function.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
Household/independent living tasks which include using the telephone, taking medications, money management, housework, meal preparation, laundry, and grocery shopping.

Intermediate Care
Occasional nursing and rehabilitative care ordered by a doctor and performed or supervised by skilled medical personnel.

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Level of Care (LOC)
Amount of assistance required by consumers which may determine their eligibility for programs and services. Levels include: protective, intermediate, and skilled.

A permission granted to an individual or organization by a competent authority, usually public, to a engage lawfully in a practice, occupation, or activity.

Long-Term Care (LTC)
Range of medical and/or social services designed to help people who have disabilities or chronic care needs. Services may be short- or long-term and may be provided in a person's home, in the community, or in residential facilities (e.g., nursing homes or assisted living facilities).

Long-Term Care Ombudsman
An individual designated by a state or a substate unit responsible for investigating and resolving complaints made by or for older people in long-term care facilities. Also responsible for monitoring federal and state policies that relate to long-term care facilities, for providing information to the public about the problems of older people in facilities, and for training volunteers to help in the ombudsman program. The long-term care ombudsman program is authorized by Title III of the Older Americans Act.

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Mental Health
The capacity in an individual to function effectively in society. Mental health is a concept influenced by biological, environmental, emotional, and cultural factors and is highly variable in definition, depending on time and place. It is often defined in practice as the absence of any identifiable or significant mental disorder and sometimes improperly used as a synonym for mental illness.

Mental Health Services
Variety of services provided to people of all ages, including counseling, psychotherapy, psychiatric services, crisis intervention, and support groups. Issues addressed include depression, grief, anxiety, stress, as well as severe mental illnesses.

Mental Illness/Impairment
A deficiency in the ability to think, perceive, reason, or remember, resulting in loss of the ability to take care of one's daily living needs.

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An individual trained to care for the sick, aged, or injured. Can be defined as a professional qualified by education and authorized by law to practice nursing.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)
A registered nurse working in an expanded nursing role, usually with a focus on meeting primary health care needs. NPs conduct physical examinations, interpret laboratory results, select plans of treatment, identify medication requirements, and perform certain medical management activities for selected health conditions. Some NPs specialize in geriatric care.

Nursing Home Care
Full-time care delivered in a facility designed for recovery from a hospital, treatment, or assistance with common daily activities.

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Occupational Health Services
Health services concerned with the physical, mental, and social well-being of an individual in relation to his or her working environment and with the adjustment of individuals to their work. The term applies to more than the safety of the workplace and includes health and job satisfaction.

Occupational Therapy (OT)
Designed to help patients improve their independence with activities of daily living through rehabilitation, exercises, and the use of assistive devices. May be covered in part by Medicare.

Older Americans Act (OAA)
Federal legislation that specifically addresses the needs of older adults in the United States. Provides some funding for aging services (such as home-delivered meals, congregate meals, senior center, employment programs). Creates the structure of federal, state, and local agencies that oversee aging services programs. (See also Title III services.)

A representative of a public agency or a private nonprofit organization who investigates and resolves complaints made by or on behalf of older individuals who are residents of long-term care facilities.

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Personal Care
(Also called custodial care.) Assistance with activities of daily living as well as with self-administration of medications and preparing special diets.

Physical Therapy (PT)
Designed to restore/improve movement and strength in people whose mobility has been impaired by injury and disease. May include exercise, massage, water therapy, and assistive devices. May be covered in part by Medicare.

Physician Assistant (PA)
(Also known as a physician extender.) A specially trained and licensed or otherwise credentialed individual who performs tasks, which might otherwise be performed by a physician, under the direction of a supervising physician.

Primary Care
Basic or general health care focused on the point at which a patient ideally first seeks assistance from the medical care system.

Individual or organization that provides health care or long-term care services (e.g., doctors, hospital, physical therapists, home health aides, and more).

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Quality of Care
can be defined as a measure of the degree to which delivered health services meet established professional standards and judgments of value to the consumer.
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Registered Nurse (RN)
A nurse who has graduated from a formal program of nursing education and has been licensed by an appropriate state authority. RNs are the most highly educated of nurses with the widest scope of responsibility, including all aspects of nursing care. RNs can be graduated from one of three educational programs: two-year associate degree program, three-year hopsital diploma program, or four-year baccalaureate program.

The combined and coordinated use of medical, social, educational, and vocational measures for training or retaining individuals disabled by disease or injury to the highest possible level of functional ability. Several different types of rehabilitation are distinguished: vocational, social, psychological, medical, and educational.

Rehabilitation Services
Services designed to improve/restore a person's functioning; includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech therapy. May be provided at home or in long-term care facilities. May be covered in part by Medicare.

Residential Care
The provision of room, board and personal care. Residential care falls between the nursing care delivered in skilled and intermediate care facilities and the assistance provided through social services. It can be broadly defined as the provision of 24-hour supervision of individuals who, because of old age or impairments, necessarily need assistance with the activities of daily living.

Respiratory Therapy
The diagnostic evaluation, management, and treatment of the care of patients with deficiences and abnormalities in the cardiopulmonary (heart-lung) system.

Respite Care
Service in which trained professionals or volunteers come into the home to provide short-term care (from a few hours to a few days) for an older person to allow caregivers some time away from their caregiving role.

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The use of quick procedures to differentiate apparently well persons who have a disease or a high risk of disease from those who probably do not have the disease.

Secondary Care
Services provided by medical specialists who generally do not have first contact with patients (e.g., cardiologist, urologists, dermatologists).

Senior Center
Provides a variety of on-site programs for older adults including recreation, socialization, congregate meals, and some health services. Usually a good source of information about area programs and services.

Service Plan
(Also called care plan or treatment plan.) Written document which outlines the types and frequency of the long-term care services that a consumer receives. It may include treatment goals for him or her for a specified time period.

Severity of Illness
A risk prediction system to correlate the "seriousness" of a disease in a particular patient with the statistically "expected" outcome (e.g., mortality, morbidity, efficiency of care).

Skilled Care
"Higher level" of care (such as injections, catheterizations, and dressing changes) provided by trained medical professionals, including nurses, doctors, and physical therapist.

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

Speech Therapy
Designed to help restore speech through exercises. May be covered by Medicare.

State Unit on Aging
Authorized by the Older Americans Act. Each state has an office at the state level which administers the plan for service to the aged and coordinates programs for the aged with other state offices.

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Technology Assessment
A comprehensive form of policy research that examines the technical, economic, and social consequences of technology applications.

Transitional Care
(Also called subacute care or post-acute care.) Type of short-term care provided by many long-term care facilities and hospitals which may include rehabilitation services, specialized care for certain conditions (such as stroke and diabetes) and/or post-surgical care and other services associated with the transition between the hospital and home. Residents on these units often have been hospitalized recently and typically have more complicated medical needs. The goal of subacute care is to discharge residents to their homes or to a lower level of care.

Transportation Services
(Also called escort services.) Provides transportation for older adults to services and appointments. May use bus, taxi, volunteer drivers, or van services that can accommodate wheelchairs and persons with other special needs.

Treatment Plan
(Also called care plan or service plan.) Written document which outlines the types and frequency of the long-term care services that a consumer receives. It may include treatment goals for him or her for a specified time period.

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Uncompensated Care
Service provided by physicians and hospitals for which no payment is received from the patient or from third party payers.

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A dynamic state of physical, mental, and social well-being; a way of life which equips the individual to realize the full potential of his or her capabilities and to overcome and compensate for weaknesses; a lifestyle which recognizes the importance of nutrition, physical fitness, stress reduction, and self-responsibility.

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