Senior Resources » Senior Resource Glossary of Memory Care Terms

Senior Resource Glossary of Memory Care Terms

memory care glossary

Memory care refers to medical or personal care specifically for those who have conditions that affect their memory, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Let’s learn all the common phrases and definitions associated with memory care.


Adult Day Care – Services that offer older adults and those with disabilities professional care, socialization, and enrichment opportunities in community-based group settings. Programs are designed to provide supervised care and promote quality of life for both participants and their families.

ADL – Activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, personal hygiene, and toileting.


Advance Directive – a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment. It often includes a living will.

Ambulatory – This term relates to the ability to walk or move. When used in reference to care (ambulatory care), it usually means outpatient.

Alzheimer’s – A progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. The most common cause of dementia.

Assisted Living – Typically for older adults who lead active lifestyles but may need medical and/or personal care help. Living space varies from apartments to individual rooms, and features shared common areas. Residents are as independent as possible with support from staff.


Behaviors – Referring to those with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias acting in different and unpredictable ways ( Common “behaviors” include agitation, repetition, hallucinations, and suspicion.

Related: Alzheimer’s Vs. Age-Related Memory Changes

Caregiver – Anyone who regularly looks after and provides assistance to a person who is sick, elderly, or disabled.

Companion – A broad term used to describe friendship, support, and assistance from either a service or a loved one.

Continuum of Care – A continuum of care refers to the delivery of care over a period of time. For seniors, it’s the care they need during each stage of life.


Custodial Care – Non-medical or personal care.

Daily Plan – Structure for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Dementia – A general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities (

Family Caregiver – A spouse, relative, friend, or neighbor who provides assistance and support for either a short-term or long-term.

Healthcare Proxy – Durable power of attorney (POA). A legal document that appoints an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make your own decisions due to incapacity.

Home Care – Health or personal care that can be provided at home by a family member or professional.

Home Health Aides – A professional who provides home healthcare services. This person may also help with ADLs.

IADL – Instrumental activities of daily living. Much like ADLs, but those that require more complex thinking, such as managing one’s own medication.

Independent Living Community – Usually apartments or individual units that are designed for seniors who do not need regular medical or personal care. However, limited care options may be available as needed.

Long-term Care – Long-term care refers to the various medical and custodial services provided to a person who is unable to perform basic activities of daily living and/or needs regular health monitoring. Long-term care can be provided at home, in assisted living, or in a nursing home.

Medical Power of Attorney -A legal document that names one person the health care agent of another person. 

Memory Care – Refers to medical or personal care specifically for those who have conditions that affect their memory, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Senior care that is designed to “provide a safe, structured environment with set routines to lower stress for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.”

Occupational Therapist – A medical professional who teaches exercises and rehab techniques that make ADLs and other activities easier. An OT can help seniors improve their motor skills and strength.

Palliative Care – Medical or surgical methods to ease the pain of a condition.

PCA – Personal care assistant. A PCA helps with ADL.

Physical Therapist – A medical professional who provides rehabilitation services and treatments to strengthen muscles and increase mobility.

Residential Care Facility – Any facility that provides long-term care and residence. Examples include assisted living, nursing homes, and skilled nursing facilities.

Skilled Care – Care that can only be administered by a licensed medical professional. Skilled care can include therapy, medication, wound care, and other services provided by nurses and doctors.

Skilled Nurse – A licensed nurse that can provide skilled nursing care.

Specialized Adult Day Care – Programs that provide services for those with specific conditions or needs. Some facilities will specialize in memory care while others may cater to adults with developmental disabilities.

Need more help?

alzheimer's ribbon

If you or a loved one are experiencing changes in memory or cognitive abilities, then contact your doctor for help.

If you’re in need of additional Alzheimer’s and dementia resources, then start here:

Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging, by CDC

National Institute on Aging

VA Dementia Care

Alzheimer’s Society

Originally published May 23, 2022

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