Sunday, September 5, 2010

Eldercare Jargon Translated Here

Eldercare jargon is alive and well on Planet Earth--unfortunately. Senior Care Professionals often sprinkle their conversations with words which carry no meaning to you and me.

An elderly woman commented recently on the brochure I sent her about retirement living: "I have one question. I'm not sure what 'congregate living' means. Does it have to do with religion?"

Oops! I thought to myself. The word "congregate" is a little like the word "congregation." But that's not what I had in mind. In my brochure I'd committed the unpardonable sin of slipping into eldercare jargon without thinking. After owning my misdeed, I translated: Congregate living is retirement living offering meals, housekeeping, transportation and activities.

Here are other examples of eldercare jargon you may hear as you care for your elderly parent.

ALC--After 14 years working in this field, I heard this recently from a professional. "I often give talks in ALC's on veterans' benefits." When I asked the meaning of an ALC, she said, "ALC is an assisted living community." Really!

Interdisciplinary Assessment--It's a nursing home term. During the first 14 days of residency in a nursing home, all departments come together to report on the new resident's needs and determine how those will be met.

Transfer--This has two meanings. The first obvious meaning refers to an elderly person moving from one care setting to another, such as from an assisted living community to a nursing home. Transfer also refers to the process of getting up from a sitting or reclining position. If your parent is a two-person transfer, he needs two other people to help him get up.

Respite--In a broad sense, this word means "rest," usually for a caregiver. This usually takes the form of bringing their loved one to a care setting temporarily, so the caregiver can take a break.

Discharge--No, this doesn't refer to bodily fluids. It has to do with leaving a care setting, such as being discharged from a hospital, a rehab center or a nursing home. Sometimes discharge happens because the person needs more care; sometimes because the person's health has improved.

Spenddown--This occurs when your parent's limited funds are paying for health care and will soon run out. Yet he or she is not yet eligible for Medicaid. Each state has rules about how funds can be spent during this spenddown period.

Have you encountered other examples of eldercare jargon? Please share.


  1. This is a very helpful post! Your list of eldercare terms contains familiar words, as well as those which I had never heard of before. This list is handy for both practicing caretakers and future and current patients.

  2. I'm glad this post was helpful. That's my intention--to offer information and assistance to adult children who are struggling with the issues related to their aging parents. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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