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Long-Term Care Glossary

Trouble understanding all the vocabulary in planning for long-term care? Our glossary can help.

ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING (ADLs) – Basic functional tasks of everyday life that include walking, dressing, bathing, eating, toileting, and getting out of a bed or chair.

ADULT DAY SERVICES – Medical, social, and recreation services provided to people over several hours, usually during the day and in a community setting. Provided most often as assistance to working caregivers, but people needing services can participate on their own.

CAREGIVER – Anyone who provides assistance to another person who is ill, disabled, or needs help with daily activities.

COMPANIONSHIP SERVICES – A variety of services including home supervision, telephone reassurance, and friendly visitors.

CUSTODIAL CARE – Help and supervision with Activities of Daily Living such as dressing, eating, and bathing, but not medical services.

DEMENTIA – Deterioration of cognitive ability usually characterized by memory loss, personality change, and impaired judgment. Common causes include Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

DISCHARGE PLANNER – A professional who assists patients and their families in developing a patient's plan of care following a hospital or nursing home stay.

ELECTRONIC/REMOTE DISEASE MANAGEMENT – Companies that use mobile technology and artificial intelligence to monitor and help people manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

GERIATRIC CARE MANAGER – A professional who performs an assessment of a person's mental, physical, environmental, and financial condition in order to create a plan of support. This could include arranging for housing or medical, social, and other services.

HEALTH-CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY – A kind of power of attorney in which individuals appoint another person—such as a spouse, adult child, friend, or faith leader—to make health-care decisions should they become unable to do so. Also called health-care proxy.

HEALTH-INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (HIT) – Computerized health records that can include automatic prescription management, clinical alerts, and reminders.

HOME AND COMMUNITY-BASED SERVICES – Long-term care services such as chores, personal care, home-delivered meals, home-health care, and adult day centers. Provided in the home or in a community setting.

HOME-DELIVERED MEALS – Regular delivery of nutritious meals—such as Meals on Wheels—to homebound individuals who are unable to prepare food for themselves due to disability or illness.

HOME-HEALTH CARE – Health-related services such as nursing; social work; occupational, speech, or physical therapy; and personal care provided in the home. Usually for patients recovering from an acute illness or chronic debilitating conditions.

HOME-HEALTH AIDE – An individual who helps with bathing, dressing, grooming, meal assistance, and light housekeeping.

HOMEMAKER SERVICES – A service that assists with general household duties such as meal preparation, cleaning, laundry, and shopping.

HOSPICE CARE – Professionally coordinated support services that include pain and symptom management; social services; and emotional and spiritual support for people who are terminally ill as well as for their families. Provided at home and in other settings.

LIVING WILL – A legal document that communicates wishes about lifesaving medical treatments in the event a person has a terminal condition and is unable to communicate health-care directives.

MEDICAID – The federal and state health care and long-term care insurance program for specific groups of people—such as older adults, children, and pregnant women—with limited income and assets. Under federal guidelines, each state designs and runs its own program, so eligibility criteria and covered services vary from state to state.

MEDICARE – The national health insurance program for people age 65 and older and for some younger people with disabilities. Medicare Part A helps pay for care in a hospital or skilled care in a nursing home; limited home-health services; and hospice care. Medicare Part B helps pay for doctors’ services; outpatient hospital care; medication administered as an outpatient; and other medical services. Medicare Part D pays some of the cost of prescription drugs.

MEDICARE ADVANTAGE (MA) – An alternative to original Medicare and operated by private companies, these plans include Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), and Private-Fee-for-Service (PFFS). Plans differ in services and costs, but they must provide Medicare Part A and B services. Many also offer prescription drug coverage.

MEDICARE PART D EXTRA HELP – Financial help with paying the cost of Medicare Part D premiums, copays, and deductibles as well as continuous drug coverage throughout the year for people who have limited incomes and assets. Administered by the Social Security Administration.

MEDICARE SAVINGS PROGRAMS – Financial help with paying out-of-pocket Medicare costs for people who have limited incomes and assets. Depending on the person’s income level, the program can pay for some or all of Medicare’s premiums, deductibles, and copays.

MEDIGAP – Insurance designed to pay some of the health-care costs—such as copays and deductibles—that original Medicare doesn’t cover. People can purchase one of several standard plans offered through private insurance companies. Like Medicare, it does not provide coverage for the majority of long-term care expenses. Also known as Medicare supplemental insurance.

PALLIATIVE CARE – Professionally coordinated services that focus on the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of people with life-threatening illness as well as their families. It seeks to maintain the highest level of comfort.

PERSONAL EMERGENCY RESPONSE SYSTEM (PERS) – An electronic device often worn on a person that—when activated—calls for help in an emergency.

PERSONAL MEDICATION RECORD – A document that allows people to list all the medicines they take (including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements), the doses, and how they take them. Sharing with all of their doctors and pharmacies helps reduce medication risks.

RESPITE CARE – A service that provides temporary relief for people caring for someone who is ill, injured, or frail. Services can be provided in an adult day care center, the home of the person being cared for, or other settings and can be offered through home care agencies and community or volunteer organizations.

This article is part of a new AARP campaign to educate women about long-term care planning. AARP advocates nationally and at the state level to improve access to affordable long-term care options.


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