This is a list words and phrases commonly used in health care and long term care.


Activities of Daily Living (ADL or ADLs)
Physical functions that an independent person performs each day. These include bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, eating and grooming. Performance of ADLs indicates a person’s degree of physical independence as part of a functional assessment.


Administration on Aging (AOA)
A part of the Department of Health and Human Services. It was established by the Older Americans Act of 1965 to serve as the coordinator of social services programs for the elderly and as the primary focal point for federal policies affecting the aged. AoA manages the long term care Ombudsman programs.


Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA)
A trade association established in 1951 as a statewide network of professionals dedicated to providing excellence and quality of care for Alabama’s individuals in need. ANHA is the state’s oldest and largest long-term health care association.


Alzheimer’s Disease
A progressive brain disorder affecting memory, thought and language. Alzheimer’s Disease is characterized by forgetfulness and poor judgment in the early stages. Gradually, Alzheimer’s patients become disoriented, confused and depressed; often severe personality changes result in violent and irrational behavior. Eventually, sometimes as often as five to eight years after the onset, people with the disease are physically disabled and totally incapable of caring for themselves.


American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA)
A professional organization that serves the needs of long-term care administrators. It was established in 1962.


American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL)
A non-profit trade organization representing more than 12,000 skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)
These are offices at the sub-state level charged with implementation of Older Americans Act- social and health services, and with coordinating those services with other programs authorized by the Older American Act, usually a county or city office.


A chronic disease characterized by abnormal thickening and hardening of the arteries (blood vessels).


The inflammation of one or more joints of the body. Two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON)
A registered nurse employed by a long term care facility who serves as the assistant to the Director of Nursing in fulfilling his or her responsibilities.


Assisted Living
This is the care, room and board and the provision of some assistance with the activities of daily living such as: grooming, bathing, eating, etc. This has also been known in the past as domiciliary care.


Bed Holds
The act of reserving a nursing care bed for a patient who is absent from the facility. Public payment policies for reserved beds are based on state Medicaid requirements. Most state plans specify requirements for absence, such as short-stay hospitalization.


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
The federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for developing and implementing policies governing the Medicare and Medicaid programs.


Certificate of Need (CON)
This is a certification made by the state under PL No. 92-641 that determines that a certain health service is needed and authorizes a specific operator, at the operator’s request, to provide that service.


Continuum of Care
The entire spectrum of specialized health, rehabilitative, and residential services available to the frail and chronically ill. The services focus on the social, residential, rehabilitative and supportive needs of individuals as well as needs that are essentially medical in nature.


Custodial Care
The room and board and other personal assistance services, which do not include a health service component, usually provided on a long term basis.


Department of Human Resources (DHR)
Alabama’s largest social service agency. It is responsible for adult protective services, nutrition assistance, day care center licensing, foster care and many more social service functions.


Diagnostic Related Group (DRG)
A group into which all types of illnesses are classified in order to determine payment to hospitals by Medicare.


Director of Nursing (DON)
A registered nurse employed by a long term care facility who reports to the administrator and is responsible for employing and supervising nursing personnel; planning, implementing and evaluating nursing care; and operating the nursing department within the philosophy and objectives of the facility.


Division of Health Care Facilities (DHCF)
Alabama Department of Public Health agency responsible for licensing applicable health care facilities pursuant to state law utilizing the rules of the Alabama State Board of Health. Additional responsibilities include assisting health care facilities and providers in complying with federal certification requirements for Medicare and Medicaid programs. Licensing requirements apply to hospitals, nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, abortion clinics, ambulatory surgical treatment centers, independent clinical laboratories, maternity homes, rehabilitation centers and related medical institutions.


Durable Medical Equipment (DME)
This includes wheelchairs, home dialysis systems for kidney patients, oxygen equipment and other medically necessary gear.


Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
This act was passed in 1974 by Congress to guarantee and pay benefits to workers who sometimes lose pension benefits altogether if their companies fail.


The medical specialty focusing on the treatment of health problems for the elderly.


The study of the biology, physiology and social processes of aging.


Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
An organization that provides nearly all of the health care a person needs through specially designed doctors, hospitals, nursing facilities, labs and other agencies. No matter how much service is needed, all costs are covered by a pre-set monthly premium, paid in advance.


Health Systems Agency (HSA)
A local health planning and resources development agency designated under Title XV of the Public Health Services Act. HSAs are non-profit private corporations, public regional planning bodies or single units of local government.


Hospice Care
Also referred to as end-of-life care usually provided by a team of health care professionals and volunteers. They give medical, psychological, and spiritual support. The goal is to help people who are dying have peace, comfort and dignity. For more information, visit the Alabama Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.


Abnormally high blood pressure.


The inability to control the evacuation of urine or feces.


Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL)
Home management and independent living activities such as cooking, cleaning, using a telephone, shopping, doing laundry, providing transportation and managing money.


The Joint Commission
A private non-profit organization which accredits the majority of the nation’s hospitals.


Level of Care
The intensity of services available in different health care settings. These usually include hospitals, where an acute level of care is provided; nursing care facilities, where rehabilitation services and 24-hour licensed nurse coverage are available; and residential care, where personal care and social programs are provided.


Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed according to state requirements, a LPN has graduated from an approved nursing program and has passed an examination. LPNs provide personal care to residents and certain other tasks under the supervision of a registered nurse.


Living Will
A legal statement specifying the preferences of an individual for medical treatment if mechanical support systems are required to sustain life.


Long Term Care (LTC)
The health and/or personal services required on a long term basis by persons who are chronically ill, aged or disabled.


This is a federally funded state operated and administered program which provides medical benefits to certain low-income individuals under Title XIX of the Social Security Act. Subject to broad federal guidelines, states determine program benefits, eligibility requirements, rates of payment for providers and methods of administering the program.


A nationwide health insurance program for people age 65 and over, for those eligible of Social Security disability payments for over two years and for certain workers and their dependents who need kidney transplants of dialysis.


Nurse Practitioner (NP)
A registered nurse working in an expanded nursing role, usually with a focus on meeting primary health care needs.


Nursing Care Facilities (NCF)
Under Medicare and Medicaid, these are facilities (or distinct parts of facilities) which provide skilled nursing care and related services for residents who require medical nursing or rehabilitation services.


Nursing Facility
This is a facility other than a hospital which provides maintenance and personal or nursing care to individuals unable to care for themselves due to a health problem. Nursing facilities do not include board and care homes.


Occupational Therapy (OT)
The treatment to restore, develop and/or maintain a physical and/or mentally disabled individual’s ability to perform daily living tasks through interpersonal activities designed and adapted by professionally qualified occupational therapists.


Older Americans Act
A federal law to encourage the development of comprehensive planning and to coordinate the provision of services for the elderly, including: health, housing, employment, transportation and social services. Under the direction of the Administration on Aging, a network of state and area agencies on aging is responsible for planning, coordinating and funding services.


Ombudsman (long-term care)
An individual designated by a state or a sub-state unit responsible for resolving concerns raised by or for people in long term care facilities. An ombudsman is responsible for monitoring federal and state policies that relate to long term care facilities, for providing information to the public about the facilities and for training volunteers to help in the Ombudsman program. The long term care ombudsman program is authorized by Title III of the Older Americans Act.


Palliative Care
This is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. For more information visit the UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care or the Alabama Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.


Peer Review Organization (PRO)
This is a contract to Medicare in each state to monitor hospital services under the prospective payment program. PRO’s are made up of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals charged with monitoring Medicare cases before, during and after hospital admissions to be sure that treatment has been appropriate and sufficient, but not excessive.


Physical Therapist (PT)
A trained and state-licensed professional who focuses on restoring physical movement to a person.


Professional Standard Review Organization (PSRO)
A physician or other professional medical organization that enters into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assume the responsibility for the review of the quality and appropriateness of services covered by Medicare, Medicaid and the Maternal and Child Health program. PSROs determine whether services are medically necessary, provided in accordance with professional standards and rendered in the appropriate setting.


A term used in public health programs to refer to a supplier of medical services (e.g., nursing home or hospital).


Registered Nurse (RN)
A nurse who has graduated from a formal program of nursing education and has been licensed by an appropriate state authority.


Resident Council
A resident-run organization within long term care facilities that make recommendations and decisions about the facility through group discussions. These councils vary in size and organizational structure, but are usually designed to foster communication between and among residents and the facility’s staff to encourage resident independence and help insure the basic rights of nursing facility residents.


State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA)
Established by Title XV of the Public Health Services Act, SHPDA prepared the annual preliminary state health plans and the state’s medical facilities plan. The agency also serves as the designated review agency for purposes of section 1122 of the Social Security Act and administers a certificate-of-need program.


Statewide Health Coordinating Council (SHCC)
A state council of providers and consumers required by Title 15 of the Public Health Services Act. Each SHCC supervises the work of the SHPDA and reviews and coordinates the plans and budgets of HSA plans and the preliminary plans of the state agency. SHCCs also review applications for HSA planning and resource development assistance.


Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
A program of support for low-income aged, blind and disabled persons, established by Title XVI of the Social Security Act.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The federal agency responsible for Food and Drug Administration, Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Human Development Services, Public Health, Family Support Administration, Alcohol and Mental Health and Health Resources and Services Administration.


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The federal agency responsible for providing benefits to veterans and their dependents.


Utilization Review (UR)
A review on a sample or other basis of admissions to the facility, the duration of stays therein and the professional services furnished. The purpose of the UR is to determine the medical necessity of the services and the most efficient use of available health facilities and services.