Health Care Definitions

Our objective is to help you make informed decisions about important health care topics and how they affect your daily life. We respect your right to make those decisions so our emphasis is on providing a variety of resources from a wide spectrum of viewpoints, not on simply presenting our own opinions.

We have compiled a list of terms and phrases that are most associated with in-home care, and we are pleased to present definitions for each of these to you.

Term or PhraseDefinition
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)Everyday activities such as (bathing, grooming, eating, toileting, and dressing).
Acute IllnessA serious illness such as a heart attack or stroke that develops rapidly with pronounced symptoms. The illness can be of short duration such as influenza.
Adaptive DevicesA variety of devices that are used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals, providing the assistance needed to stay at home. These devices may help with vision, hearing, mobility, communication, or other needs, and include wheelchairs, walkers, touch-sensitive light switches, phone amplifiers, stair lifts, chairs with lifts, and computers. May also be known as Assistive Technology.
Aging in PlaceConcept that advocates allowing a resident to choose to remain in his/her living environment despite the physical and/or mental decline that may occur with the process of aging.
AmbulatoryDescribes the ability to ambulate, walk around, not bedridden or unable to walk.
AssessmentA process used by care managers to gather information about an individual to determine his or her functional needs and/or eligibility for services. Information collected may include health status, financial status, ability to perform activities of daily living, mental status, etc.
CaregiverThe primary person in charge of caring for an individual with care needs, usually a family member or a designated health care professional.
Care PlanThe detailed formulation of a plan of action that addresses a client’s needs.
Case ManagementA term used to describe formal services planned by care professionals.
Children of Aging Parents (CAPS)Children of Aging Parents is a non-profit, charitable organization whose mission is to assist the nation’s caregivers of the elderly or chronically ill with reliable information, referrals, and support. CAPS strive to heighten public awareness that the health of the family caregiver is essential to ensure quality care of the nation’s growing elderly population.
Chore ServiceChore services are semi-skilled home repairs and maintenance tasks performed to enhance the health and safety of the individual in the home. These services are provided through the local Area Agency on Aging, volunteer programs, or youth groups to help older people live safely and comfortably in their own homes.
Geriatric Social WorkerA licensed professional whose expertise enables him/her to assist the elderly and their family to understand and cope with the social, emotional, and psychological aspects of aging. The social worker may assist the individual/family to access services, and then assist them to use the resources effectively.
Home Delivered MealsHot and nutritious meals delivered to homebound people who are unable to prepare their own meals and have no outside assistance. Also see “Meals on Wheels.”
Home Health CareProvision of medical and nursing services in the individual’s home by a licensed provider.
Homemaker/Home Health Aid ServiceA trained person, working under supervision, providing personal care, household cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, transportation, for an elderly or disabled person.
HospiceUsually a combination of at-home and hospital care of the terminally ill that combines medical and social services. It is designed to help both the patient and the family. Hospice care emphasizes pain control, symptom management, and emotional support rather than the use of life-sustaining equipment.
Hospice CareCare and comfort measures provided to those with a terminal illness and their families. It can include medical, counseling, and social services. Most hospice care is furnished in-home, while specialized hospices or hospitals also provide this service.
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)Day-to-day tasks such as preparing meals, shopping, managing money, taking medication, and housekeeping.
Level of CareRefers to the outcome of an assessment designed to determine the most appropriate setting for the delivery of long-term care to an elderly person.
Long-Term CareProvision of services to people of any age who are afflicted with chronic health impairments.
Long-Term Care InsuranceA privately issued insurance policy that covers the cost of nursing home care, assisted living, and home health care. Premiums are based on age, health, length of the deductible period, the amount paid, and duration of benefits. Currently accounts for only two percent of payments to national nursing home costs.
Managed CareThere is currently no standard definition of managed care, but it can best be described as a combination of insurance and a health care delivery system. The basic goal of managed care is to coordinate all health care services received to maximize benefits and minimize costs. Managed care plans use their own network of health care providers and a system of prior approval from a primary care doctor to achieve this goal. Providers include: Specialists, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, therapists, and home health care agencies.
Meals-on-WheelsMeals delivered on a regular schedule – such as daily, Monday to Friday, weekends, etc. – to housebound elderly or elderly people unable to cope with meal preparation, for little or no cost.
MedicareNationwide medical insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration for individuals 65 and over and certain disabled people, regardless of income. Provides for hospital and nursing facility care (Part A) and physician services, therapies, and home health care (Part B).
Non-AmbulatoryInability to ambulate, walk around, and usually bedridden or hospitalized.
Occupational TherapyThe process to help individuals relearn activities of daily living, generally administered by a licensed therapist.
Personal Care Assistance Program (PCA)Personal care services provided through home health agencies and include personal care, bathing, meal preparation, assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), and light housekeeping.
Personal Emergency Response System (PERS)Equipment that monitors the safety of older people in their homes through signals electronically transmitted over the telephone and received at an emergency-monitoring center.
Primary CaregiverThe individual who has the main responsibility for helping an older person. This individual usually is the one who makes decisions and organizes care and services.
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)Day-to-day tasks such as preparing meals, shopping, managing money, taking medication, and housekeeping.
Private Geriatric Care ManagersSpecially trained in geriatric care management, geriatric care managers provide case management services on a fee-for-service basis to individual clients.
Quality CareCare and services that allow recipients to attain and maintain their highest level of mental, physical, and psychological function, in a dignified and caring way.
Respite CareTemporary relief from duties for caregivers, ranging from several hours to days. May be provided in-home or in a residential care setting such as an assisted living facility or nursing home.