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When you're learning about Alzheimer's disease and caregiving, you may come across some unfamiliar terms. The Alzheimer's Association® has developed this glossary to help you understand care- and Alzheimer's-related words and phrases.

 
 

A

Accredited facility
An accredited facility is a nursing home, assisted living center or hospital that meets very high standards of care. These standards are set by organizations such as The Joint Commission (JTO). To stay accredited, a facility must be inspected every 18 months to three years.
 

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Activity director
An activity director plans group singing, art projects and other activities. Such activities help residents of a long-term care facility stay active, alert and sociable.

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Activities of daily living (ADLs)
Activities of daily living (ADLs) include eating, bathing, grooming, dressing and going to the toilet. People with dementia may need aid to perform these tasks. Questions about ADLs help decide what type of care a person needs.

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Acute care (hospital care)
Acute care is a medical setting such as a hospital, intensive care unit or emergency department.

Administrator
An administrator runs a care facility, such as a nursing home.

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Adult day centers
Adult day centers offer people with Alzheimer's and other dementias the opportunity to be social and to participate in activities in a safe environment.

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Advance directive
An advance directive is a legal document. It tells what kind of medical treatment a person would like when he or she cannot communicate wishes.

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Allowable cost
Allowable cost is the highest fee the state will pay for people on Medicaid. Other insurance plans may also set allowable costs for the services they cover.

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Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

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Assessment
An assessment of mental status is a test of a person's ability to think, feel and react to others. A doctor usually performs a mental status assessment.

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Assistive device
An assistive device is an aid, such as eyeglasses, a cane, a wheelchair or a hearing aid.

Assisted living
Assisted living is a residential care facility that generally provides 24-hour staff, recreational activities, meals, housekeeping, laundry and transportation. Definitions of assisted living and the specific regulations differ from state to state. Residents may choose which services they receive from the residence such as house cleaning, help with grooming or medication reminders.

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Attorney (elder law)
An elder law attorney handles general estate planning issues and counsels clients about planning for the future with alternative decision-making documents. The attorney can also assist the client in planning for possible long-term care needs, including nursing home care. Not all attorneys specialize in elder law. Your local bar association or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and your local chapter can refer you to elder law attorneys in your area.

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Audiologist
An audiologist deals with ear problems, including hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears or "head noise") and lack of balance. Audiologists provide hearing aids and other listening devices.
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B

Bed-bound or bed-fast
A person who is bed-bound cannot walk or get out of bed without help from another person or a mechanical lift.

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Behaviors
Alzheimer's disease and related dementias can cause a person to act in different and unpredictable ways. Some individuals with Alzheimer's exhibit behaviors such as agitation, repetition, hallucinations and suspicion.

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C

Caregiver
Anyone who provides care to a person with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Caregivers can be family members or friends, or paid professional caregivers. Caregivers may provide full- or part-time help to the person with Alzheimer's.
 

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Case management describes the care and services planned by health care workers.

Catheter
A catheter is a bendable plastic tube that goes into the bladder to help a person urinate.

Certified nursing assistant (CNA); also certified nurse's aide
A certified nursing assistant helps feed and care for disabled adults. To learn these skills, CNAs attend at least 75 hours of classes. A CNA works under a nurse's supervision and must keep taking classes to stay certified.

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Chaplain
A chaplain offers spiritual counseling to people in nursing homes and hospitals.

Charge nurse
A charge nurse supervises the staff and residents of a floor or unit of a nursing home. The charge nurse's shift usually lasts eight hours. On each shift, day or night, a charge nurse should be available.

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Clinical trials
Clinical trials are research studies conducted in people to determine whether treatments are safe and effective. Clinical trials are the best way for researchers to find new ways to detect, slow, treat and hopefully someday prevent Alzheimer's disease.

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Contractures
Contractures — shortenings of the tendons and muscles — can make the knees, arms, hands or feet curl up. Physical therapy can sometimes prevent or treat this condition. But contractures following a stroke or dementia diagnosis may be permanent.

Custodial care
Custodial care helps a person accomplish the activities of daily living (ADLs). Custodial care can also include preparing special diets and giving medications.

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D

Daily plan
A daily plan provides structure for the person with Alzheimer's or dementia. A plan should includeactivities that provide the person meaning and enjoyment.
 

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Decubitus ulcers (pressure ulcers, pressure sores or bedsores)
Decubitus ulcers are skin sores caused by constant pressure.

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Deficiencies
Deficiencies are problems an inspector notes while visiting a nursing home or other facility. The facility must correct any deficiencies. Otherwise, it may be fined and dropped from Medicare or Medicaid participation.

Dementia
Dementia is not a specific disease. It's an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia.

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Dentist
A staff or contract dentist cares for the teeth and gums of a facility's residents. Medicare does not cover dental services, but Medicaid covers some dental expenses. Regular dental care is a key to staying healthy.

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Dietician
A dietician makes sure that a facility's residents eat a healthy, nutritious diet.

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Director of nursing services (DON)
The Director of Nursing oversees all nursing activities. These include scheduling and making sure staff members get continuing education. The DON is a registered nurse who has graduated from an accredited school of nursing.

Discharge
Discharge is the release of an individual from a hospital or other facility such as a nursing home. The attending doctor must give an order for the discharge.

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Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order
A DNR order, signed by a doctor based on a patient’s wishes, instructs medical personnel to not perform life-saving CPR or other procedures to restart the heart or breathing once they have ceased. Once signed, the DNR directive must be placed in the patient's chart. 

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E

Elder law attorney
An elder law attorney handles general estate planning issues and counsels clients about planning for the future with alternative decision-making documents. The attorney can also assist the client in planning for possible long-term care needs, including nursing home care. Not all attorneys specialize in elder law. Your local bar association or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and your local chapter can refer you to elder law attorneys in your area.
 

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F

Family/designated representative or other caregiver
“Family members” can include people who are important to the resident, whether or not they are related.
 

Feeding tube
A feeding tube is a plastic or rubber tube to give food and water to someone who cannot eat or drink. A feeding tube can be put in through the nose (nasogastric) or the stomach wall (PEG tube).

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Financial Planner
A financial planner can help the client make decisions that make the most of financial resources while at the same time help negotiate the financial barriers that inevitably arise in every stage of life.

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Functional impairment
Functional impairment means being unable to dress, use the toilet, eat, bathe or walk without help.

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G

Geriatric care manager
A geriatric care manager will help create a plan of care that meets the needs of the older adult and will explain what resources and options are available.
 

Geriatric psychiatrist
A geriatric psychiatrist is trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders in older adults. These disorders include dementia, depression, anxiety and late-life schizophrenia.

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Geri chair
A geri chair is a high-backed cushioned recliner with a leg and foot rest. The staff can push it on wheels, but the resident cannot move it. A geri chair is a restraint, so it can be used only on a physician's order.

Guardian/conservator
A court-appointed guardian or conservator manages a resident's money and makes healthcare and living decisions. Becoming a guardian or conservator requires a court order.

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H

Home health aides
Individuals who provide non-medical healthcare to people at home. Training or certification requirements vary from state-to-state, but typical services include assistance with activities of daily living, managing medications and some household tasks.
 

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Hospice
A program that offers support for dying persons to live as fully and comfortably as they can.

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I

In-home care
These care services involve professionals coming to the home to help the caregiver and the person with dementia. Services vary in type and can include companion services, personal care services and homemaker services.
 

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Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)
Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are important daily living activities, such as cooking, shopping and managing finances.

J

The Joint Commission
The Joint Commission (JT), formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). JT is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations and programs in the United States. (see Accredited facility).
 

K

There are currently no glossary terms beginning with the letter 'K'.
 

L

Long-distance caregiving

Family members or friends who live in another city, state or country, and who are responsible for caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
 

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Long-term care facility
A long-term care facility is a nursing home or assisted living center designed for disabled adults.

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M

Medicaid
Medicaid is a government health program for low-income people.
 

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Medicaid-certified
A Medicaid-certified facility can offer services to people who are on Medicaid.

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Medical director
The medical director is a doctor who oversees medical care in a facility, such as a nursing home. The medical director may be the attending doctor for some residents and may offer emergency medical care for other residents.

Medicare
Medicare is a government health insurance program for people aged 65 and older and for disabled people.

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Medicare-certified
A Medicare-certified facility can offer services to people who are on Medicare.

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Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)
The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is a short test to measure a person's basic skills. These skills include short-term memory, long-term memory, writing and speaking.

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Minimum Data Set (MDS)
The Minimum Data Set (MDS) summarizes information on the abilities of people who live in long-term care facilities. To keep their Medicare and Medicaid certification, long-term care facilities must submit their MDS data regularly.

N

Nurse
A nurse who works in a nursing home takes care of residents and oversees certified nurses' aides (CNAs) and custodial caregivers. A registered nurse (RN) is a graduate trained nurse who has been licensed by a state authority after passing qualifying examinations for registration. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a person who has undergone training and obtained a state license to provide routine care for the sick. Some states use the term licensed vocational nurse or LVN.
 

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Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs)
Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) are specially trained and may help oversee residents' care. In many states, doctor-supervised NPs and PAs write orders for treatment and medication.

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O

Occupational therapist (OT)
An occupational therapist helps residents change their activities or environment so they can eat, dress and bathe. An OT may also help with other tasks, such as cooking, taking medication or driving. And OTs may guide family members and caregivers.
 

Ombudsman
An ombudsman in a long-term care facility helps residents and their families keep their rights and resolve complaints.

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Owner/operator
The owner is the individual, agency or company that owns the facility. The owner may hire an operator to direct the facility.

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P
Palliative care

Palliative care includes medical or surgical methods to ease the pain of a serious or incurable illness.
 

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Personal care
People with Alzheimer's disease or dementia may need help with personal care activities, including grooming, bathing and dressing.

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Personal health record
A personal health record (PHR) is a regularly updated collection of important health information. If you have dementia or are caring for someone with dementia, a PHR will help you work with your care team.

Pharmacist
A pharmacist offers information about prescriptions, reviews patients' drugs, teaches caregivers and gives out medications.

Physical therapist
A physical therapist treats physical disabilities and works with residents to improve general fitness. A physical therapist may also teach a resident how to use a walker, artificial limb or wheelchair.

Physician
A physician, or doctor, helps develop a medical care plan for each resident of a long-term care facility. Physicians make medical decisions, such as what medications residents take. They visit nursing home residents. They may also meet with a resident's family to discuss medical conditions or treatments.

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Power of attorney
A power of attorney is a legal form that names someone to act as your substitute.

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Psychologist
A psychologist detects and treats emotional problems. Personality and intelligence testing can help a psychologist diagnose these problems. Treatments include individual, family, and group therapy sessions. Psychologists in long-term care facilities also teach staff members how to interact with residents.

Q

Quality indicators
Quality indicators describe the care in a long-term facility. For example, one quality indicator is the percent of residents whose need for help with daily activities has increased. The government's Nursing Home Compare website uses quality indicators to score every nursing home in the United States.
 

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R

Recreational therapist
A recreational therapist helps residents enjoy activities. For example, the recreational therapist might offer special tools, such as large-print songsheets, to encourage participation.
 

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Resident
A resident is someone who lives in a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home.

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Respite care
Respite care provides temporary relief from caregiving tasks. Such care could include in-home assistance, a short nursing home stay or adult day care.

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S

Social worker
A social worker offers residents and their families therapy, support services and planning for discharge. Social workers may also teach and counsel staff members.
 

Speech-language pathologist
A speech-language pathologist tests, diagnoses and treats people with speech and swallowing problems.

Stages
A framework for the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

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Staff-resident ratio
The staff-resident ratio compares the number of staff members to the number of residents they care for.

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Support groups
A group of Alzheimer's caregivers who connect to share experiences, provide support and give advice. Support groups can meet face-to-face with a support group leader or meet online.

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Survey
The state health department takes an unannounced survey of each nursing home about once a year. This survey helps make sure a facility is giving good care. A nursing home must participate to keep its license. Each facility has to post its latest survey results. These required surveys differ from the surveys of The Joint Commission (JT) that a nursing home may request (see Accredited facility).

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T
There are currently no glossary terms beginning with the letter 'T'.

 

U

There are currently no glossary terms beginning with the letter 'U'.

 

V

There are currently no glossary terms beginning with the letter 'V'.

 

W

Wandering
Anyone who has memory problems and is able to walk is at risk for wandering. A person with Alzheimer's or dementia may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented and lost, even in familiar places.
 

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X

There are currently no glossary terms beginning with the letter 'X'.

 

Y

Younger-onset
Younger-onset (also known as early-onset) Alzheimer's affects people younger than age 65. Many people with early-onset are in their 40s and 50s. They have families, careers or are even caregivers themselves when Alzheimer's disease strikes.
 

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Z

There are currently no glossary terms beginning with the letter 'Z'.