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Alzheimer's Care Industry Terms

Here are some terms you’ll want to be familiar with during your search for the right Alzheimer's care facility for your loved one.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

The everyday activities of self-care one performs to maintain one’s health and wellbeing. Basic ADLs include eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, personal hygiene and getting around.

Alzheimer's disease

A progressive brain disorder usually afflicting older adults and seniors that is commonly expressed in various forms of dementia. Much research is being done to discover the causes of and treatments for Alzheimer’s, but as yet there is no cure. It was named after Alois Alzheimer, the German physician who first identified it in the early 20th century.

Assisted living

A type of residential care that allows persons to live with a large degree of independence, while providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Most but not all of those who reside in assisted living communities are senior adults.


The primary person responsible for supporting or taking care of an aging or disabled senior on a day-to-day basis. They may aid in tasks such as medications, dressing, dining, toileting, and ambulating. Often a family member or spouse, or designated health care provider such as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A CNA helps patients or clients with healthcare needs under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Provides personal care to residents, including bathing, dressing, and toileting. Must be trained, tested and certified to provide care in nursing facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

A community that offers a range of assistance, from independent living to assisted living to nursing home care. Usually includes a written agreement or long-term contract between the facility and the resident, frequently lasting the term of the resident's lifetime. The full continuum of housing, services, and health care are all located on one campus.


A long-term loss of mental faculties and memory, usually affecting senior adults, and having a variety of causes. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, but not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. Some forms of dementia may be curable, or respond to treatment, but in general, dementia disorders are chronic and ongoing.

Long-term care

Services which help meet both the medical and non-medical needs of people with a chronic illness or disability who cannot care for themselves for long periods of time. Long-term care can be provided at home, in the community, in assisted living facilities, or in nursing homes.

Long-term memory

Memories that may be recalled weeks, months or years after being formed. Remembering the name of a teacher you had in elementary school is a long-term memory. People with Alzheimer’s disease may retain some long-term memories, even in some of the later stages of their illness.

Medical Director

Assumes overall responsibility for the formulation and implementation of all policies related to medical care at a care facility. The medical director also coordinates with an individual's personal physician to ensure that the facility delivers the care that is prescribed. In some instances, the medical director may be a resident's primary physician.

Memory disorder

A condition affecting the brain’s ability to create, store and retrieve memories. There can be many causes and forms. Some instances are temporary, such as those due to many head injuries. Others, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are chronic and progressive.


Inability to walk, often refers to bed-ridden or hospitalized patients.

Nursing home

Facility licensed by the state that provides 24-hour nursing care, room and board, and activities for convalescent residents and those with chronic and/or long-term care illnesses. Residents may receive physical, occupational, and other rehabilitative therapies, or care with special needs, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition to licensure and certification requirements, nursing homes must also honor the federal Nursing Home Patient’s Bill of Rights. Funding options for nursing home care include: private funding, long-term care insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Graduate-trained nurse who has passed a state board examination and is licensed by a state agency. The RN assesses resident needs, develops and monitors care plans in conjunction with physicians, and executes highly technical, skilled nursing treatments.

Short-term memory

Memories we form and access to help engage in the day-to-day moments of living. Being introduced to someone and remembering their name at the end of a brief conversation is an example of a short-term memory. Memory disorders that affect short-term memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can make it difficult for those affected to have normal social interactions and to keep themselves safe.

Skilled nursing care

The kind of 24-hour care offered by nursing homes. Skilled nursing care communities attend to the ongoing medical needs of their residents, in addition to providing meals and assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs). Most states require skilled nursing communities or nursing homes to be licensed and submit to regular inspections. Some skilled nursing communities are specialized to provide memory care, or have special memory care units.

Special Care Unit (SCU)

A separate unit within an assisted living or skilled nursing community dedicated to care for residents with specific needs, such as memory care. Laws governing the requirements to operate SCUs differ from state to state.

Now that you understand the commonly used terms, return to and read the reviews of Alzheimer's care facilities near you to find the right fit.