Helpful Terminology for New Caregivers

A helpful guide to caregiving terms and abbreviations


Basic Care Related Terms and Abbreviations


ALF The abbreviation for an assisted living facility.

LTC- Abbreviation for long-term care

SNF Abbreviation for skilled nursing facility (you may hear some refer to this as a “sniff”)

Hospice Specialized end-of-life care provided by professionals specifically trained to provide palliative care.

Palliative Care A care method takes in the whole person and their needs, and focuses on quality of life rather than prolonging life. This is usually the type of care given to those at the end of life or those with terminal illnesses, and it revolves around keeping them safe, comfortable, pain-free, and emotionally supported. This is similar to, and sometimes the same as, holistic care.

Holistic Care A “whole body” approach to medical care. For example, in traditional care, a person with diabetes would be given insulin. In holistic care, they would be given diet plans, nutritional support, emotional support for coping with the illness, etc. As well as safe alternative therapies such as massage for leg pain and circulation issues. The point of holistic care is to care for all aspects of the person’s needs rather than just the affliction.

Care Plan The complete encyclopedia (it seems) of your loved one’s medical and personal needs. Care plans are individualized guides to what a person needs in every aspect of their care.
You may never see one, but if your loved one is in a facility you may be asked to go over one or to agree to treatments and procedures listed in the care plan.


Legal Terms Regarding Caregiving


Not only do you have to become an overnight nurse when you take up caregiving, but you also need to be a lawyer! Here are a few legal terms that caregivers need to know:

Conservator A person assigned by a court to handle the financial obligations of another person. A conservator is named when a person is no longer capable of making sound decisions on their own.

Advance Directive A legal document that a person writes to clarify their wishes for future medical care and treatments. It usually goes along with a living will, durable power of attorney, and durable power of attorney for healthcare.

Living Will Much like an advanced directive, a living will states what a person wishes as far as their care, should they no longer be able to make decisions for themselves.

Durable Power of Attorney A contract that delegates power to a third party for financial responsibility. Without this paper, a caregiver may not be able to arrange for payment of medical care.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare This is where a senior citizen designates a specific person to oversee their medical care if they are no longer capable of making rational decisions.

Executor The person responsible for carrying out actions listed in a will.

Ombudsman A person who receives, investigates, and answers complaints and issues regarding care facilities.

Guardian The person responsible for legal, medical, and financial decisions made on a senior citizen’s behalf. This may or may not be the primary caregiver.

APS Adult protection services. They function just like child protection services and are responsible for investigating and reporting neglect, poor living conditions, and cases of abuse to or by an elder.

DNR Do Not Resuscitate order. This is an order written by a doctor at the request of a patient or guardian. In basic form, it means that medical professionals are not supposed to try to restart a heart that has stopped beating. The DNR can sometimes be more complex, depending on a person’s personal beliefs, wishes, and conditions. Just remember when you see this on paperwork; it is not a medical shorthand for “donor”.

GCM Geriatric Case Manager. A person who works with older adults and their relatives to make certain the older person’s individual needs are being met and the appropriate services are arranged.


Medical Terms for the Caregiver


Durable Medical Equipment This doesn’t mean sturdy, top-quality equipment. It is a term that refers to reusable equipment, such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, walkers, etc. Insurance companies sometimes pay for these items to be purchased or rented.

ADL’s Activities of daily living. These are everyday tasks that your loved one could once do for themselves, such as dressing, grooming, eating, cleaning, cooking, etc. The more ADLs a person can perform alone or with minimal assistance, the better their quality of life.

Autonomy A person’s ability and freedom to make decisions about their own body and care. In a care facility, “autonomy” is a resident’s right to eat, sleep, bathe, dress, etc. when and how they want, (as long as it is safe for themselves and others). It also relates to how they want to spend their time, arrange their environment, socialize, and decide for or against medical procedures. The more autonomy an elder has, the better their quality of life.

Enteral Nutrition Any nutrition or medication delivered via intravenous (IV) or stomach tubing.

PEG Tube Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy. This is a big term for a small tube that is introduced through the abdominal wall to deliver food, liquids, and medications directly into the stomach.

Decubitus Ulcer The medical term for bedsore or pressure ulcer. You may hear someone refer to one as simply “a decubitus.”

Acute Vs. Chronic An acute illness or pain comes on suddenly and is usually temporary. Chronic pain or illness either repeats, cycles, or is always present.

Sign Vs. Symptom When assessing patients, or asking caregivers for information about a senior, doctors will ask for signs and symptoms. A sign is any symptom that can be seen, heard, smelled, or felt by someone other than the patient. A symptom is something that only the patient can feel themselves.

For example, a headache is a symptom, a rash is a sign. These may also be referred to as objective or subjective symptoms (confusing right?) An objective symptom is a sign (rash, fever, racing pulse, wound, etc.) that can be measured by anyone. A subjective symptom can only be felt by the patient.

Demand Clarification There are thousands of medical terms and abbreviations that you will encounter as a caregiver. Many will be in writing; others will be spoken by professionals in the healthcare industry.

If you don’t understand what something means, demand clarification. This is especially important concerning legal documents and insurance policies. Not having a crystal clear understanding of unfamiliar terms can lead to serious medical issues and major financial woes.  Caregivers should always research everything, get second opinions, and insist that things are explained as simply as possible.


Seniors need attention and love during the holidays, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, some people forget to visit their loved ones during the busiest times of the year. 

Finding ways to take care of seniors during the holidays is extremely important. Doing so involves helping them with their physical, mental, and emotional needs. Let’s look into the ways you can take care of seniors during the holiday season.

Hire a Service

Some seniors might not be able to help themselves with different tasks such as:

  • Mobility to go places
  • Remembering important details and schedules
  • Assistance with motor skills

Whatever you may need, we here at Senior Care Companions can help. We offer various services to help seniors each day. You can find assistants to help them 24/7, or just a few hours of the day.


While you should help seniors when you can, you may need professional help. After all, you can’t be at their sides 24/7, so see if you can find a reliable service to look after them.

Plan Fun Activities

Seniors can face boredom during the holidays, especially if they don’t have people to spend time with them. Coming up with fun activities you can do with one another is important to their mental and emotional wellbeing. Potential activities include:

  • Sit down and play board games together
  • Enjoy holiday activities like eating or watching movies
  • Go for a walk through the park

Focus your attention on letting them have fun. Doing so can help you take care of them emotionally and mentally. For example, they could feel happy after the activities or thankful you thought of them.

Seniors can potentially become lonely and depressed during the holidays, so take the time to plan fun activities for them. Doing so can help them overcome the mundane and boring moments in their lives.

Prepare Them Ahead of Time

Some seniors may like to stick with their schedules. If you know seniors like this, you should prepare them before any activities. Some seniors may have health problems, so make sure you accommodate them. 

You can do this in multiple ways such as:

  • Ensure they have a way to safely reach the areas if they have to use wheelchairs
  • Give them specific food if they have dietary restrictions
  • Show them pictures of who they’ll see at the event if they suffer from memory loss

You don’t want to worry them, so make sure you take some time to talk and prepare. This can help them understand the plan and feel comfortable during the activity.

Visit Them Regularly

Often people forget to help seniors with their mental and emotional health during the holidays. If you want to help them during the holidays, just visiting them is an easy way to make their day.

Visiting seniors can help them out in many ways:

  • Allows them to talk with someone
  • Shows them others care about their well-being
  • Help them with tasks or anything else they need

When you visit a senior, you can help them feel happy. You can also help them avoid feelings of loneliness or boredom if they have to live away from home. Even if you have seniors in your life who live on their own, you should visit them during the holidays.

Seniors recognize the time you take to visit them, so they’ll appreciate your efforts.

Ask Them What They Want

Sometimes, people try to make decisions for seniors, so you should communicate when possible. If you communicate with them, you can avoid some problems.

  • Ensure they do something they like and avoid boredom
  • Meet their personal needs and keep them safe
  • Learn more about them and their interests

These points can help you find an activity that will make the seniors happy. You don’t want to drag them to an activity they don’t like, so you need to communicate with them. That way, you can find something you’ll both enjoy. 


Some people forget to remember each senior as a person. Make sure you show these seniors you care by asking them what they want. As you do so, you can form stronger relationships with them. 

Final Comments

The holidays give you a great opportunity to show your love to the seniors in your life. Whether you want to help relatives in your family or the local seniors, you can make the holidays better for them.

If you want to help these seniors out, try out the ideas above. If you need assistance in taking care of the seniors in your life, reach out to Senior Care Companions.

Have any Questions? Just give us a call, we would love to help in any way.

“Quality Care You Can Trust – Since 2004”

Senior Care Companions
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