Glossary of Care: Vocabulary for Caregivers

Navigating long-term care can be confusing. Here’s a term-by-term guide to understanding the process.

Aging in Place

Relates to the ability to live independently in the home and community as one ages, regardless of health conditions or disability, by planning ahead or making home modifications such as grab bars or widening doorways and hallways for wheelchairs. Home health care providers can enable people with chronic medical issues to remain at home longer.

Assisted Living

Maintains a focus on remaining independent within a supervised setting. Residents can choose from options including housekeeping, prepared meals, medication management and help with morning care such as getting dressed, showering or using the toilet. Assisted-living facilities tend to offer a wide range of activities and group dining is common.

Continuing Care

A tiered approach to meeting the needs of aging adults at a single location or campus, beginning with independent living in single-family apartments or condominiums for healthy adults. As daily needs change, older adults can transition to on-site assisted living or nursing home facilities.


Obtaining the legal authority to make decisions for another person. A “guardian” is the person appointed by the court to make decisions on behalf of someone else. The person over whom the guardianship is granted is referred to as the “protected person.”

Home Health Care

Medical care provided in a patient’s home. This can include broad care by skilled medical professionals, including skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. This can also include skilled non-medical care, such as medical social services or assistance with daily living from a highly qualified home health aide.


This team-oriented approach to end-of-life care includes medical, pain management and emotional/spiritual support. Services are also provided to the patient’s family and loved ones, typically when the prognosis for living is six months or less.

Independent Living

Also known as retirement living, independent living centers on an active, self-sufficient lifestyle for seniors in residences ranging from apartment complexes to gated communities, with services that include housekeeping, meal options, amenities and recreational options.

Long-term Care Insurance

Private insurance to cover the 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.


Joint federal and state health insurance program available to those with limited income and resources, including pregnant women, children 19 or younger, persons 65 or older and those who are blind, disabled or in need of nursing home care. Medicaid will pay for nursing care at a certified facility.


Health insurance program administered by the federal government. Medicare is available to people 65 or older and younger people with disabilities and those affected by kidney failure or long-term kidney disease. Medicare does not provide a comprehensive long-term care component.

Memory Care

Care provided to those with varying degrees of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This involves creating a structured environment with set schedules and routines to create a stress-free lifestyle, safety features to ensure the health of a senior and programs designed to cultivate cognitive skills.

Nursing Care

Care provided and supervised by a registered qualified nurse that goes beyond the supportive home care provided by most domiciliary and residential caregivers. This involves clinical care that can allow people with complex conditions and care needs to be safely supported in hospitals, hospices, homes or nursing homes.


The Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) provide comprehensive medical and social services to certain frail, community-dwelling, elderly individuals, most of whom are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Personal Home Care

Supportive care provided in the home by health care professionals or professional caregivers. This includes assistance with activities of daily living such as getting out of bed, bathing, using the toilet, dressing, walking or eating.

Private Pay

Describes any health insurance plan not run by the federal or state government. Private insurance can be purchased from a variety of sources such as an employer, a state or federal marketplace or a private marketplace.


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 such as strokes or accidents.

Residential Care

Care and supervision for people unable to live by themselves, but who do not need 24-hour nursing care. This includes room, board, housekeeping, supervision and personal care assistance with basic activities like hygiene, dressing, eating and walking. Facilities usually centrally store and distribute medications for residents to self-administer.

Respite Care

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

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