Long Term Care Glossary

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Daily functions such as getting dressed, eating, taking a shower or bath, going to the bathroom, getting into a bed or chair, or walking from place to place. The amount of help a person needs with ADLs is often used as a measure to determine whether he or she meets the requirements for long- term care services in a nursing home as well as government subsidised home- and community- based services.

Acute Care

Medical care for health problems that are new, quickly get worse, or result from a recent accident. Acute care has recovery as its primary goal, typically requires the services of a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse, or other skilled professional, and is usually short-term. It is usually provided in a doctor’s office, a clinic, or a hospital.

Adult Day Services

Community-based programs that provide meals and structured activities for people with cognitive or functional impairments, as well as adults needing social interaction and a place to go when their family caregivers are at work.

Assisted Living/Personal Care Homes/Residential Care Facilities

A state- regulated residential long-term care option that may have different names depending on the state. Assisted living provides or coordinates oversight and services to meet residents’ individualized, scheduled needs, based on the residents’ assessment and service plans, and their unscheduled needs as they arise. There are more than 26 designations that states use to refer to what is commonly known as “assisted living.” There is no single uniform definition of assisted living, and there are no federal regulations for assisted living. In many states, most assisted living is private pay. Be sure to check with your state about any waiver programs that might be available through

Medicaid to pay for the care provided in assisted living.


Determination of a resident’s care needs, based on a formal, structured evaluation of the resident’s physical and psychological condition and ability to perform activities of daily living.

Case Management

Assistance for families in assessing the needs of older adults and making arrangements for services to help the older adult remain as independent as possible.


An individual who cares for another person in need.


A general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by structural and physiological changes in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is estimated that 47 to 67 percent of nursing home or assisted living residents have Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia.


A professional trained in Gerontology. Gerontologists have a Masters or doctoral degree, either in Gerontology, or in another discipline (psychology, biology, social work, etc.) with a focus in gerontology.


The study of the aging process and individuals as they grow from midlife through later life including the study of physical, mental and social changes; the investigation of the changes in society resulting from our aging population; the application of this knowledge to policies, programs, and practice.

Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS)

Services provided in an individual’s home or a setting in the community, such as adult day services, senior centres, home-delivered meals, transportation services, respite care, housekeeping, companion services, etc. These services are primarily designed to help older people and people with disabilities remain in their homes for as long as possible.


A program of medical and social services for people diagnosed with terminal (end-stage) illnesses that focuses on comfort, not curing an illness. Hospice services can be given at home, in a hospital, hospice residence, assisted living community, or nursing home. They are designed to help both the patient and his or her family. Hospice care stresses pain control and symptom management. It also offers emotional and spiritual support.

Independent Living

A residential location that may or may not provide hospitality or supportive services. Includes rental- assisted or market-rate apartments or cottages. Residents can choose which services they want. There may be an additional fee for some services.

In-home care

Care that takes place at home. It may be unpaid or paid care provided by loved ones, friends or professional caregivers. In-home care typically includes assistance with day-to-day tasks, such as bathing, walking, or cooking.

Long term care

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.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapists evaluate, treat and consult with individuals whose abilities to cope with the tasks of everyday living are threatened or impaired by physical illness or injury, psychosocial disability or developmental deficits. Occupational therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation agencies, long term care facilities, and other health care settings.

Palliative Care

Care that focuses on the relief of the pain, symptoms, and stress of serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for patients and families. Palliative care is appropriate at any point in an illness, not just for end-of-life care, and it can include treatments that are intended to cure as well as comfort. It is both a philosophy of care (as is hospice) as well as an approach to caring activities. Palliative care is provided by trained staff in a hospital, home, nursing home, assisted living community or hospice.

Person-Directed Care/Person-Centered Care

An approach to care in which the voices of individuals needing care and those working closest with them always comes first. Core person-directed values include dignity, respect, purposeful living and having the freedom to make informed choices about daily life and health care. It involves a continuing process of listening, trying new approaches, seeing how they work, and changing routines and organizational approaches in an effort to individualize and de-institutionalize the care (e.g., nursing home or assisted living environment).

Physical therapy (PT)

Therapy to help those recovering from illness or injury. Physical therapy works to relieve pain, restore maximum function and prevent future injury or disability.

Rehabilitative care

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.


Person living in a long term care facility. Also referred to as “Patients” as nursing facilities are licensed health care facilities.

Rehabilitation (“Rehab”)

Services to help restore mental and physical (bodily) functions lost due to injury or illness. Rehabilitation may be given at the hospital or in a nursing home, some assisted living residences, a special facility or the patient’s home. The types of services offered generally include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social services, and nursing.

Respiratory therapy

Therapy that assists patients who have breathing difficulties. Respiratory therapy aims to reduce fatigue and increase tolerance in performing daily activities.

Respite Care

Temporary (a few hours or up to a few days) care to offer relief for the family caregiver. Respite care may be given in the elder’s home, a community-based setting such as adult day care, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home. It can be scheduled regularly (for example, two hours a week) or provided only when needed. This service can be particularly valuable for family members taking care of persons with dementia.

Day Care Centres

Centres that provide services to senior citizens, aged 60 and over. They may offer social activities (like music or crafts), meals, health screenings (such as blood pressure checks, diabetes monitoring), learning programs, creative arts and exercise classes.

Transitional Care

A move from one care setting (hospital, home, assisted living, nursing home) to another. Care during transitions involves coordination and communication among patients, providers, and family caregivers. For example, it is critical that there is a way to assure that the proper medication list is communicated from setting to setting.