Elder Care Acronyms, DEBUNKED!: Your Pocket Guide to Confusing Healthcare Terms

4 Mins read

When your healthcare provider speaks to you, do you feel your brain turn to jelly?

When your healthcare provider speaks to you, do you feel your brain turn to jelly?

As if the financial and emotional complexities of elder care weren’t enough, it’s a tireless task to see through the dark veil of healthcare-ese. But in the age of fast-paced digital advances and shared caregiving responsibilities, its more important than ever to make sense of the words coming at you to ensure your senior is getting the best care possible.

It’s time to take control of your home health care: We’re here to help you shine a light on confusing medical acronyms. Read up, educate yourself, and soon you’ll be talking like a pro!

  • AAAs – Area Agencies on Aging

Not your vehicle’s AAA – Area Agencies on Aging are public or private non-profit offices established through the Older Americans Act. They address the needs of older adults in a defined geographic area, either a city, country, or multi-county district. AAAs coordinate services that help older adults to remain in their own homes, aided by such services as Meal-on-Wheels, homemaker assistance, and whatever else is viable to ensure the older adult can age-in-place successfully (Source: HHS Eldercare Locator)

  • DART – Dial-a-Ride Transportation

Same-day, call-ahead, curb-to-curb transportation service.  In general services are provided to adults age 60-65 and over or those who have a disability and are unable to use fixed route buses. Most DARTs operate in small communities and have a one-hour call-ahead requirement. (Source: Michigan Office of Services to the Aging)

  • D/C – Discharge

To be released from medical treatment or a hospital stay. The abbreviation is cited by the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices as frequently misinterpreted and involved in harmful medication errors. A great deal of research has been conducted to understand the predictors of poor discharge outcomes in elderly patients; home care has been identified as a valuable alternative for post-acute care.

  • EMR  – Electronic Medical Record

“An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one health care organization.” (Source: LeadingAge CAST; The National Alliance for Health Information Technology Report)

  • EHR – Electronic Health Record

“An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be created, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one health care organization. The principal difference between an EMR and an EHR is the ability to exchange information interoperably. With the passage of time, electronic records not capable of exchanging information interoperably will lose their relevance. Thus the term EMR is on course for eventual retirement.” (Source: LeadingAge CAST; The National Alliance for Health Information Technology Report)

  •  LOLFDGB – Little Old Lady, Fall Down, Go Boom

While LOL is an expression of laughter in the web world, in medical vernacular LOL identifies a patient as a “Little Old Lady”. In physician shorthand, “Little Old Lady, Fall Down, Goes Boom” signifies this patient has suffered a fall – a potentially fatal event for older adults. Studies show that while such pejorative medical terms are common, over 50% of medical students find the usage of LOLFDGB to be harmful to the quality of care. Interestingly enough, such terms were used frequently when referring to self-destructive or abusive patients. (Source: Mashable)

  • MMSE – Mini Mental Status Exam

A common exam, consisting of 30 questions, used to determine the level of cognitive functioning and to detect dementia. The Mini Mental State Exam can be administered in less than five minute and assesses five different cognitive (mental) functional abilities:

  • Orientation to time and place
  • Attention Span and Arithmetic
  • Memory and recall
  • Language skills

A score of 20 to 24 suggests mild dementia, 13 to 20 suggests moderate dementia, and less than 12 indicates severe dementia. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)

  • NEMT: Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

Transportation to and from scheduled hospital visits, doctors’ offices and other medically related appointments when the condition is not life threatening. Modes of transportation include but are not limited to non-emergency ambulance, wheelchair van, medi-car, taxicab, service car, livery, private automobile, or air transport. (Source: Illinois Dept of Public Aid)

  • PCMH – Patient Centered Medical Home

A widely misunderstood term, the patient-centered medical home has been defined by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as “a model for care provided by physician practices aimed at strengthening the physician-patient relationship by replacing episodic care based on illnesses and patient complaints with coordinated care and a long-term healing relationship.” PCMH does not refer to delivering care IN the client’s home, but does promote a model of easily accessible primary care. For America’s seniors, this means more responsive, relationship-based, coordinated care based in the senior’s home community. (Source: Dept of Health & Human Services)

  • PERS –Personal Emergency Response System

Also known as Medical Emergency Response Systems, PERSs lets older people living in their own homes call for help in an emergency by pushing a button. When pushed, the transmitter sends a signal to the console, which automatically dials an emergency response center or personal contact. These devices are lightweight, battery-powered and can be worn around the neck, on a wristband, belt, or held in a pocket. (Source: Federal Trade Commission)

  • PRN – Pro re nata

A Latin term meaning “in the circumstance” or “as the circumstances”. In healthcare, PRN is commonly used in reference to a treatment, service, or medication that is not scheduled. Instead the administration is “as needed” and left to the health care provider’s discretion.

  • SPICES – Nurse assessment framework

Nurses working with older adults in home care use SPICES as a framework for their assessments, shift reports, and handoffs. The framework looks at six common “marker conditions”: sleep problems, problems with eating and feeding, incontinence, confusion, evidence of falls, and skin breakdown. Alone or in combination, these conditions can lead to higher mortality, high healthcare costs, and longer hospitalizations. (Source: Long-Term Living Magazine)

What eldercare acronym absolutely stumps you?


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