Have you ever read paperwork from a hospital or post-acute provider and needed Google to figure out what it says? You're not alone. Many medical professionals use these terms without understanding that the person who really needs to hear what you're saying, may not have a clear understanding of what's being said.
As a nurse, I have learned to speak in a way that anyone can understand what's being said and when I see confusion, I start asking questions to be sure that what I am saying is not only being heard, but also understood. This is a list of commonly used acronyms in the medical field. Bookmark this page if you often have to read medical jargon and you're unsure what it all means. (Feel free to email us if you need some help decoding your paperwork as well)
Acute care- A high level of care provided to a patient for a medical condition or illness that a patient is likely to recover from. Once a patient recovers from the illness or injury, they will not need assistance of an acute care facility. In cases of people 65 and older, acute care is considered a Medicare benefit.
CNA- Certified Nursing Assistant
DON- Director of Nursing
ED- Executive Director/Administrator
GNA- Geriatric Nursing Assistant
LPN or LVN- Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse
LTC- Long Term Care
MCD- Medicaid (State funded insurance for which someone has to meet financial criteria in order to qualify. This insurance typically pays for long term care in a nursing facility within the state in which it was obtained)
MCR- Medicare (Federal insurance you've earned throughout the years you've worked and paid into the system, Medicare does not cover long term at nursing facilities)
OT- Occupational Therapy
PT- Physical Therapy
Qualifying Stay- The number of days Medicare requires a patient to stay at the hospital before the Medicare benefit can be used in the skilled nursing facility.
Respite Care- A relief in caring for a family member who usually needs total care by others or to live in a residential facility outside of the home; this care is short-term.
RN- Registered Nurse
SNF- Skilled Nursing Facility, also known as nursing home, "old-folks" home, transitional care center.
ST- Speech Therapy
STC- Short Term Care
From the Medicare.Gov website, additional terms also available to download by clicking the file below.
Extended visits offer an opportunity for long-distance caregivers and family members to personally observe older relatives. Family members who have not seen their loved one in a few months may be surprised seeing a parent looking frail or their home in disarray. Regular phone conversations don’t always give a true assessment of their loved one’s situation. Here are some signs it might be time to assess living arrangements.
Weight Loss. One of the most obvious signs of ill health, either physical or mental, is weight loss. The loved one might not have the energy to cook and clean up. Medications might change the way food tastes. Or there might be a health-related issue that needs medical attention.
Balance. Lack of balance might lead to risk for falling. Pay attention to the way your parent walks. Difficulty getting up from a seated position or difficulty walking and or problems with mobility might be a sign of joint or muscle problems. Unexplained bruising could signal falls.
Emotional Well-being. Some of the signs to look for are withdrawal from activities with others, changing sleep patterns, loss of interest in hobbies, lack of interest in normal home chores and changes in personal hygiene. The causes of these changes could be as wide-ranging as depression, dementia, or a health issue.
Memory Loss. Modest memory problems are a fairly common part of aging, and sometimes medication side effects or underlying conditions contribute to memory loss. There’s a difference, though, between normal changes in memory and the type of memory loss that makes it hard to do everyday things such as driving and shopping. Signs of this type of memory loss might include:
Home Maintenance. Pay attention to your parent’s home. Is the home neat? Are bills being paid? Is mail piled up? Is there scorched cookware or spoiled food? Is laundry piled up? Are there unexplained dents in their car? Be sure to check prescriptions and medications for expiration dates to make sure medicines are being taken regularly.
If you see these signs, it might be time for a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one about their circumstances, their concerns and the steps they would like taken to make things better. A health assessment appointment with their primary care physician might be the first step. Do they need extra help in their home or is it time to explore other residence options?
Information that you might want to gather for future reference include:
Your loved ones will want to be in control of their own lives. Ensure them that having systems in place will allow them to be independent and keep them safe.