Home care words and phrases to help you make the right care decision.

Home Care Terminology: A Glossary for Caregivers

Last updated on February 15, 2022

If you’re looking into home care for a senior loved one for the first time, you’ll probably encounter new and unfamiliar lingo as you research various care options. Although some terms are self-explanatory, others can be confusing, especially if they are used interchangeably or incorrectly.

Understanding the difference between a few common home care terms can help you advance in your research and better comprehend your senior home care options.

Before you get stuck in the “alphabet soup” of care jargon, check out this helpful glossary of home care terminology:

  • 24/7 home care
    A caregiving arrangement in which two or three caregivers work in shifts to provide 24/7 home care (around-the-clock care in the home).

  • Activities of daily living (ADLs)
    Personal care tasks that help seniors engage in routine activities, such as using the toilet, bathing, dressing, eating, cooking, and moving around within their home.

  • Adult daycare
    Facilities that provide care for older adults who need supervision during the day.

  • Assisted living facility (ALF)
    Residential housing option that also provides assistance with ADLs such as cooking, housework, and bathing but does not provide skilled nursing care.

  • Care coordinator
    A care coordinator (sometimes called a care manager) assists with home-care planning and facilitates communication between home care agencies, in-home caregivers, family caregivers, and clients.

  • Client
    The person who receives care inside the home.

  • Continuing care retirement community (CCRC)
    A residential housing facility that offers different levels of care, such as independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. Residents can progress through the levels of care as their needs change.

  • Family caregiver
    Family members who provide personal care for a loved one, such as adult children of a senior. Although an older adult may have multiple family caregivers, one family member may be designated as the primary family caregiver, who serves as the first point of contact for their loved one’s medical, financial, and personal care needs.

  • Home health care
    Medical care provided in the home by a skilled medical professional. Examples of home health care include skilled nursing care, physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

  • Hospice care
    End-of-life care that focuses on comfort, quality of life, and psychological well-being for individuals and their loved ones. Hospice care provides compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable diseases so the individual may live as fully and comfortably as possible.

  • In-home caregiver
    Also called a "home-care worker," "personal care worker," or "personal care aide," an in-home caregiver is a hired professional who provides personal care services in a client’s home. In-home caregivers are not family members (see family caregiver).

  • In-home personal care
    Also called "home care," "companion care," or "non-medical care," in-home personal care assists with everyday tasks and ADLs, such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, toileting, bathing, dressing, and transportation to appointments. In-home care often enables older adults to remain in their homes safely and can be an alternative to a facility.

  • Live-in care
    Live-in shifts are scheduled for a 24-hour period. This caregiving arrangement requires a team of caregivers to meet the need of clients safely and cost-effectively. For each live-in shift, the caregiver is assigned an 8-hour sleep period. Adequate arrangements (including a bed) must be made available by the client.

  • Long-distance caregiving
    Long-distance care is an option when the primary family caregiver lives at least several hours away from the client.

  • Long-term care insurance
    This coverage can pay part of the cost of care received in the home, depending on the policy.

  • Nursing home
    A residential facility that provides personal and medical care for people who are unable to care for themselves.

  • Palliative care
    Care that helps to improve the quality of life, psychological well-being, and comfort of people who are living with a serious — but not necessarily life-limiting — illness. Unlike hospice care, palliative care is provided along with curative treatments.

  • Respite care
    Respite care is short-term or temporary care that provides a break for the primary family caregiver.

  • Senior center
    A facility that provides social opportunities and other services designed to improve the well-being of older adults.

Taking the time to familiarize yourself with these home care terms will help you feel more confident in the care decisions you make for the older adult in your life.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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