Healthy Aging Glossary

A | C | D | E | G | H | I | L | M | N | O | P | R | S


Activities of Daily LivingAlso 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 rehabilitation-related services.

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 intellectual functions.

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, wheelchair, commode).

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 healthcare matters.

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 measures.

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 housekeeping.

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 workers.

Home Helper—a person who comes into your home to provide help with personal (non-medical) care needs and household chores. (Also called chore services.)

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 medical treatment.

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 health care.


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 standards.

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 other settings.

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.