For most new caregivers, CCRCs, HHAs and PERS spell confusion.
But even without the confounding acronyms, helping a loved one of any age can mean you're exposed to new verbiage and daunting doctor-speak.
If you hear any phrase from a doctor, nurse or social worker that you don't understand, speak up — right when you hear it. If you don't interrupt politely, you may forget what you wanted to ask by the end of the conversation.
If you nod your head like a good listener, a professional immersed in these problems probably will think you understand and launch into the next topic. Or worse, that person could leave you scratching your head and wondering what to do next as part of a plan of care.
Take notes, too. You're almost guaranteed to forget some of the finer points of any stressful conversation by the time you return home.
Here are more than 75 terms that caregivers are likely to encounter:
• Activities of daily living (ADLs). Actions a person must do by themselves to engage independently in everyday life, such as bathing, dressing, eating, being mobile, moving from bed to a chair and using the toilet.
• Acute care. Medical care given for a short time to treat a specific illness or condition. This can include doctor visits, short hospital stays or surgery.
• Adult care home, also called an adult family-care home (AFCH) or group home. A small assisted living residence where employees provide for disabled adults or seniors who need help with certain tasks but want to remain as independent as possible. They are an alternative to more restrictive, institutional settings, such as nursing homes, which provide 24-hour nursing care.
• Adult day care. Centers that provide companionship and help to older adults who need supervision during the day. The programs can help give a break to a round-the-clock caregiver.
• Advance directives. Written statements that communicate individuals’ medical preferences if they become unable to make their own health care decisions. Two types are possible:
- A living will spelling out the types of medical treatment they want at the end of life if they are unable to speak for themselves.
- A health care proxy, which identifies a health care agent or attorney-in-fact to serve as spokesperson on medical decisions for an individual who has lost the ability to communicate.
• Alzheimer's disease. A type of progressive mental deterioration, affecting memory and the ability to process thoughts, that is one form of dementia.
• Assisted living facility (ALF). Housing for those who may need help living independently but do not need skilled nursing care. The level of assistance varies among residences and may include help with bathing, dressing, meals and housekeeping.
• Assistive technology devices. Products that improve a person's ability to live and function independently. Low-tech assistive devices include canes and pill organizers; high-tech items include electric wheelchairs, hearing aids and smartphones.
• Cardiologist. A medical doctor who specializes in heart disorders.
• Chronic disease. A condition that lasts one year or more and either requires ongoing medical attention or limits a person's ability to bathe, care for themselves, dress, eat or walk.
• Cohousing. A small planned community in which single-family homes, townhouses or rental units are clustered around amenities such as a community kitchen and dining room, common areas for sitting, craft and meeting rooms, gardens and potentially adult and child day care. The goal is to design a neighborhood where people of all ages and family statuses can rely on the informal, mutual support of neighbors to help out.
• Comorbidity. The presence, or coexistence, of more than one disorder in the same person. They can occur at the same time or one after the other. Interactions between the illnesses can worsen the course of both.
• Competence. In a legal sense, a person's ability to understand information, make a choice based on that information and communicate that decision in an understandable way.
• Conservator. A person whom a court appoints to handle someone's affairs when that person cannot do the job. Usually, a conservator handles only finances.
• Consumer-directed personal assistance program. A Medicaid program available in several states that permits chronically ill and physically disabled people to choose, train and supervise workers who help them with activities of daily living such as bathing, light housework and meal preparation so they can remain in their homes. Some relatives and friends of participants can qualify to be paid through this program.
• Continence. The ability to control bowel and bladder function.
• Continuing care retirement community (CCRC). Housing that offers a variety of living options and services — including independent living, assisted living and skilled care, often all on the same campus — and is designed to meet a person's changing needs.
• Copayment, sometimes called copays. A fixed amount — $20, for example — that one pays for a health care service covered by insurance after payment of the deductible. Let's say your health plan's allowable cost for a doctor's office visit is $100. If you haven't yet met your deductible for the year, you'll pay the full $100. If you have met the deductible, you pay the $20 copay, usually at the time of the visit.
• Custodial care. Nonmedical care that helps individuals with bathing, dressing and other basic care that most people do themselves, such as using eye drops. It can occur in a range of environments including adult day care, assisted living centers and residential care facilities.
• Delirium. Short-term confused thinking and disrupted attention usually accompanied by disordered speech and hallucinations.
• Dementia. A general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not all dementia comes from Alzheimer's.
• Dermatologist. A medical doctor who specializes in skin disorders.
• Discharge planner. A professional who assists patients and their families in developing a method of care for a patient following a hospital or nursing home stay.
• Do not resuscitate (DNR) order. A type of advance directive in which a person states that health care providers should not attempt to restart the heart through cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the heart or breathing stops.
• Durable power of attorney. A legal document that gives someone you choose the authority to act financially, legally and medically in your place if you become incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own. It remains in effect until the person who grants it either cancels it or dies.
• End-of-life doula, also known as a death doula. An individual who provides nonmedical comfort and support to a dying person and their family. This may include education and guidance as well as emotional, spiritual or practical care.