Glossary beginning with A

Click one of the letters above to go to the page of all terms beginning with that letter.


Accelerated Benefits

Benefits which can be drawn out of a life insurance policy prior to death to pay for care needs.


Removal of barriers that would hinder a person with a disability from entering, functioning, and working within a building. Modifications that would make a home more accessible include widening doorways, adding a wheelchair ramp, and adding hand rails in a bathroom.

Accessory Apartment

Apartments built into the homes of children or other relatives.


A process whereby a program of study or an institution is recognized by an external body as meeting certain predetermined standards. Accreditation is often carried out by non-governmental organizations created for the purpose of assuring the public of the quality of the accredited institution or program. The state or federal governments can recognize accreditation in lieu of, or as the basis for Licensure or other mandatory approvals. Public or private payment programs often require accreditation as a condition of payment for covered services. For long term care facilities, accreditation standards usually include stipulations about the physical plant, governing body, administration, and medical and other staff.

Activities of Daily Living

The core daily personal care activities which are necessary for people to be able to live independently. ADLs are not always defined the same, but generally include Ambulation, Bathing, Continence, Dressing, Eating, Toileting, and Transferring. The level of assistance people need with ADLs is a measure of the type and amount of long term care they need. Problems with ADLs may trigger eligibility to receive benefits from long term care insurance, or may be a requirement for admission to an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Acute Care

Care for illness or injury that has developed rapidly, has pronounced symptoms and is finite in length. The goal of acute care is to cure disease and restore the person to an improved level of functioning. In-patient hospital care is acute care, as are doctor's visits, surgery, and X-rays. Acute care services are covered by health insurance policies and by both Medicare and Medicaid, although there are various co-payments, deductibles, and limits to coverage.

Acute Illness

Illness that is usually short-term and that often comes on quickly.


Entrance into a facility or program. Each resident who enters a nursing home for the first time counts as an admission. A resident returning to the facility after an intervening stay elsewhere would be a re-admission.

Adult Day Care

A daytime community-based program that provides a variety of health, social, and related support services in a protective setting. Programs are designed to meet the needs of functionally and/or cognitively impaired adults who can no longer be left at home alone. Adult day centers offer protected settings which are normally open five days a week during business hours and include a mixture of health, social and support services. Many programs provide meals and transportation services to and from a patients home, and specialized programs for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or related disorders. These programs often provide a respite, or break for family caregivers.

Adult Day Health Care

A category of Adult Day Care which provides comprehensive, professional support in a protected environment including on-site nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and/or other professionals for adults who are experiencing a decrease in physical, mental, and social functioning and require tailored medical and/or psychiatric supervision. Such centers normally offer a wide range of therapeutic and rehabilitative activities as well as social activities, meals, and transportation.

Adult Foster Care

A live-in arrangement where one adult lives with and is provided care and/or services by an unrelated individual or family. Such arrangements may be certified by the state or managed independently.

Adult Protective Services

A state or community-based service that investigates cases of suspected elder abuse, neglect or endangerment.

Advance Directives

Include healthcare power of attorney or proxy, living will, Do Not Recessitate (DNR) or other advanced directions to guide healthcare decision-making if a person is unable to make or express decisions on his or her own behalf.

Aging in Place

The concept of allowing an older person to remain in the same place as their care needs change, rather than requiring a move to another type of facility. Aging in place is a desired goal of many older people, but current regulations in many states limit the types of services which can be provided in various facilities, necessitating a move. A Continuing Care Retirement Community may promote itself as a place where residents can age in place, but even these facilities will require residents to move to various buildings within the campus as their care needs change.

Alternate Plan of Care Benefit

Used by some long term care insurance policies that include home care benefits. A provision for payment for a special arrangement of services specifically designed to allow the person to reside in a setting other than a nursing facility, like services to provide assistance and capital improvements such as ramps, grab bars and/or durable medical equipment. These provisions are designed to delay a move to a nursing home for as long as possible, and might be covered so long as these expenses would cost no more than a the nursing home.

Alzheimer Unit

Special living units within a Nursing Home or an Assisted Living Facility specifically providing care and services for those with Alzheimers Disease.

Alzheimers Disease

A progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior, including short-term memory loss, inability to reason, and the deterioration of language and the ability to care for oneself. Alzheimers is a type of dementia. The disease was first described in 1906 by German neurologist, Alois Alzheimer.


One of the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). The ability to walk both inside and outside your residence with or without a cane, crutches or brace.

Ambulatory Care

All types of health services which are provided on an outpatient basis, in contrast to services provided in the home or to persons who are inpatients. While many inpatients may be ambulatory, the term ambulatory care usually implies that the patient must travel to a location to receive services which do not require an overnight stay.

Ancillary Services

Services other than primary care services, which may include physical, occupational, or speech therapy, X-ray, and laboratory services.


Loss of the ability to use or understand language.


An evaluation of physical and/or mental status by a health professional, usually a nurse. This assessment, together with the attending physician notes, determines the level of functional and cognitive incapacity of the patient, and is used to create a Care Plan and make decisions about the need for Home Health Care, an Assisted Living Facility, or a Skilled Nursing Facility.

Assisted Living

A facility which provides care to residents who cannot live independently, but who do not require around-the-clock nursing care or extensive medical supervision. Defined broadly, assisted living is any group residential program not licensed as a nursing home that can respond to unscheduled needs for assistance. ALFs are usually more residential than nursing homes, and emphasize privacy and autonomy while providing supervision and oversight. Generally, residents of an ALF need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), but are otherwise able to care for themselves. ALFs do not provide a level of care sufficient to be certified as Medicare providers, but may in a few states be certified as Medicaid providers. <p>Terminology varies from state to state, and a facility which is called an Assisted Living Facility in one state might be called other things in other states, i.e. a Residential Care Facility (RCF), a Board and Care Home, a Domiciliary Care Facility, an Adult Care Home, or a Community-Based Care Facility.

Assistive Devices

Tools designed to substitute for missing or impaired body functions. Examples include special telephones for people with hearing impairments, walking aids, elevated toilet seats, communication devices, and reachers which allow people in wheelchairs to reach objects in high places.

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