Activities director – Staff member who oversees events and activities in various assisted living and skilled nursing care settings.

Acute – Sudden and severe condition.

Advance directive – Written statement of an individual’s preferences and directions regarding health care. Advance Directives protect a person’s rights even if he or she becomes mentally or physically unable to choose or communicate preferences regarding medical treatments.

Alzheimer’s Disease – The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s affects memory, thinking and other mental abilities. Alzheimer’s develops slowly and gradually worsens over time. While there is no cure for the condition, there are treatments to help manage the symptoms.

Assessment – Determination of a resident’s care needs, based on a formal, structured evaluation of the resident’s physical and psychological condition and ability to perform activities of daily living.

Assisted living – Long term care option that offers varying degrees of personal and medical care within a homelike setting. Assisted living facilities range from a private room or an apartment to a multi-unit facility specializing in Alzheimer’s care. The goal of assisted living care is to maintain maximum independence. Also called “residential care.”


Caregiver – An individual who cares for another person in need.

Certified nursing assistant (CNA) – Trained, licensed nursing professional who assists with personal care needs, such as bathing, dressing or eating.

Cognition – The process of knowing, being aware of thoughts; the ability to reason and understand.

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) – Housing communities that provide different levels of care based on resident needs, from independent living apartments to skilled nursing care. Residents move from one setting to another as needed, but continue to remain a part of their CCRC.


Dementia – General term used to describe a set of symptoms that affects intellectual and social abilities such as memory, problem solving and communication.

Do not resuscitate order (DNR) – Request that instructs medical professionals not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Dual eligibles – Persons who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare.



Geriatrics – The branch of medicine that focuses on providing health care for the elderly and the treatment of diseases associated with the aging process.


Hospice care – Care philosophy focused on reducing suffering rather than curing a condition. Hospice addresses physical, spiritual, social and emotional needs of dying individuals and loved ones. Hospice care can include pain medication, therapy or counseling.


In-home care – Care that takes place at home. It may be unpaid or paid care provided by loved ones, friends or professional caregivers. In-home care typically includes assistance with day-to-day tasks, such as bathing, walking, or cooking.


Letter of instruction – Written document that offers care guidance. A letter of instruction might name persons to look after children or pets, direct persons to important documents or accounts, or include a list of important contacts such as an employer, attorney or financial advisor.

Licensed practical nurse (LPN) – Certified professional who provides basic bedside care under the direction of a registered nurse (RN) or physician.

Living will – Legal document that specifies medical or life-sustaining treatments in the event the patient is unable to make decisions or communicate.

Long term care – Broad spectrum of medical and support services provided to persons who have lost some or all capacity to function on their own, and who are expected to need such services over a prolonged period of time.

Long-term insurance – Private insurance to cover long term care needs.



Medicaid – Joint federal and state health insurance program available to those with limited income and resources. Eligible individuals include pregnant women, children age 19 or younger, persons age 65 or older, and those who are blind, disabled or in need of nursing home care. Medicaid will pay for nursing facility care, provided the nursing facility is certified.

Medical director – Physician who oversees medications, examinations and treatments.

Medicare – Health insurance program administered by the federal government. Medicare is available to people who are age 65 or older, permanently disabled, or affected by kidney failure or long-term kidney disease. Medicare does not provide a comprehensive long term care component.

Medicare part A – Hospital insurance that helps pay for inpatient hospital care, limited skilled nursing care, hospice care, and some home health care. Most people get Medicare Part A automatically when they turn 65.

Medicare part B – Medical insurance that helps pay for doctors’ services, outpatient hospital care, and some other medical services that Part A does not cover (like some in-home health care). Part B helps pay for these covered services and supplies when they are medically necessary. A monthly premium must be paid to receive Part B.

Medicare supplemental insurance – Private insurance that pays Medicare deductibles and co-insurances, and may cover services not covered by Medicare. Most plans will help pay for skilled nursing care, but only when that care is covered by Medicare. Also called “Medigap.”


Ombudsman – Advocate for patient/resident rights and improvements in the long term care system.


Personal care – Assistance with “activities of daily living,” such as getting out of bed, bathing, using the toilet, dressing, walking or eating.

Personal resources – Private payment sources such as savings, investments and assets.

Physical therapy (PT) – Therapy to help those recovering from illness or injury. Physical therapy works to relieve pain, restore maximum function and prevent future injury or disability.


Registered nurse (RN) – Nurse who has graduated from a formal nursing education program and passed a state-administered exam. RNs have completed more formal training than licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and have a wide scope of responsibility including all aspects of nursing care.

Rehabilitative care – Care services that assist those recovering from illness, injury or disease. Rehabilitative care treatments help patients regain abilities lost as a result of life-changing events.

Resident care – Care services that include maintenance of a safe environment, religious programming, housekeeping and social activities.

Residents’ rights – Rights of those living in an assisted living care facility or skilled nursing care facility.

Respite care – Short term relief program offered in a variety of care facilities. Respite care gives both caregivers and loved ones a break. In respite care, a skilled care professional assumes caregiver responsibilities for a predetermined amount of time.



Skilled Nursing Care – 24/7 comprehensive care provided in a homelike setting. Skilled Nursing Care centers promote autonomy and choice. They offer a variety of services, social activities and recreational opportunities. Also called “nursing homes.”

Social worker – Care professional committed to advancing social rights.


Therapy – Treatment of various health conditions, with the goal of restoring or improving abilities and reducing further deterioration or injury.