Healthcare Terminology

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services & World Health Organization

Health & Community Care Terms: 

“Activities of daily living (ADL)” A concept of functioning – activities of daily living are basic activities that are necessary to independent living, including eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, grooming, mobility and transferring. This concept has several assessment tools to determine an individual’s ability to perform the activity with or without assistance.

“Advance care planning” Planning in advance for decisions that may have to be made prior to incapability or at the end of life. People may choose to do this planning formally, by means of advance directives, or informally, through discussions with family members, friends and health care and social service providers, or a combination of both methods.

"Advance directive" A mechanism by which a competent individual expresses his or her wishes should circumstances arise in which he or she no longer is able to make rational and sound decisions regarding his or her medical treatment. Usually ‘advance directive’ refers to orders for withholding and/or withdrawing life support treatments at the end of life, made by writing living wills and/or granting power of attorney to another individual. 

"Ageing / aging in place" Meeting the desire and ability of people, through the provision of appropriate services and assistance, to remain living relatively independently in the community in his or her current home or an appropriate level of housing. Ageing in place is designed to prevent or delay more traumatic moves to a dependent facility, such as a nursing home. 

"Assisted living home", "adult care home", "adult group home", "residential care facility" An assisted living facility provides resident rooms to ten or fewer residents. Residential care homes provides resident beds or residential units, supervisory care services, personal care services, directed care services or health-related services for persons who do not need continuous nursing services. Provides accommodation and other care, such as domestic services (laundry, cleaning), help with performing daily tasks (moving around, dressing, personal hygiene, eating) and medical care (various levels of nursing care and therapy services). Residential care is for older people with physical, medical, psychological or social care needs which cannot be met in the community.

“Adult foster care home" A residential setting that provides room and board and adult foster care services for at least one and no more than four adults who are participants in the Arizona long-term care system and in which the sponsor or the manager resides with the residents and integrates the residents who are receiving adult foster care into that person's family.

"Assisted living center" An assisted living facility that provides resident rooms or residential units to eleven or more residents.

"Assisted living facility" A residential care institution, including an adult foster care home, that provides or contracts to provide supervisory care services, personal care services or directed care services on a continuous basis. This type of establishment provides accommodation and care for older or disabled persons who cannot live independently but do not need nursing care. Residents are also provided with domestic assistance (meals, laundry, etc.).

"Assessment" A written analysis of a resident's abilities; preferences; and need for supervisory care services, personal care services, or directed care services.

Assistive device” Equipment that enables an individual who requires assistance to perform the daily activities essential to maintain health and autonomy and to live as full a life as possible. Such equipment may include, for example, motorized scooters, walkers, walking sticks, grab rails and tilt-and-lift chairs.

“Bereavement” A process of loss, grief and recovery, usually associated with death.

“Care plan” A dynamic document based on an assessment which outlines the types and frequency of care services that a client receives. It may include strategies, interventions, continued evaluation and actions intended to help an older person to achieve or maintain goals.

“Caregiver” A person who provides support and assistance, formal or informal, with various activities to persons with disabilities or long-term conditions, or persons who are elderly. This person may provide emotional or financial support, as well as hands-on help with different tasks. Caregiving may also be done from long distance.

“Caregiver burden” The emotional, physical and financial demands and responsibilities of an individual’s illness that are placed on family members, friends or other individuals involved with the individual outside the health care system.

“Caregiver burnout” A severe reaction to the caregiving burden, requiring intervention to enable care to continue.

“Chronic care” The ongoing provision of medical, functional, psychological, social, environmental and spiritual care services that enable people with serious and persistent health and/or mental conditions to optimize their functional independence and well-being, from the time of condition onset until problem resolution or death. Chronic care conditions are multidimensional, interdependent, complex and ongoing.

“Chronic condition / disease” A disease which has one or more of the following characteristics: is permanent; leaves residual disability; is caused by non- reversible pathological alternation; requires special training of the patient for rehabilitation; or may be expected to require a long period of supervision, observation or care.

“Continuing care retirement community” A community which provides several levels of housing and services for older people, ranging from independent living units to nursing homes, on one site but generally in separate buildings.

“Continuum of care” The entire spectrum of specialized health, rehabilitative and residential services available to the frail and chronically ill. The services focus on the social, residential, rehabilitative and supportive needs of individuals, as well as needs that are essentially medical in nature.

“Coordinated care” A collaborative process that promotes quality care, continuity of care and cost-effective outcomes which enhance the physical, psychosocial and vocational health of individuals. It includes assessing, planning, implementing, coordinating, monitoring and evaluating health-related service options. It may also include advocating for the older person.

“Do not resuscitate order” An advance directive based on the premise that a person may prefer to die than live when the quality of life available after cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is likely to be worse than before. In such circumstances, a patient has the right not to be resuscitated and to be allowed to die.

“Durable power of attorney (enduring power of attorney)” A written legal document in which a person appoints another individual to act as his/her agent for the purposes of health care decision-making in the event that he/she is unable or unwilling to make such decisions.

“Geriatric care” Care of older persons that encompasses a wide range of treatments from intensive care to palliative care.

“Geriatric centre” A facility specializing in services for older persons which include acute care, geriatric assessment, rehabilitation, medical and nursing services, therapy services and residential care.

"Health care institution" Entails very place, institution, building or agency, whether organized for profit or not, which provides facilities with medical services, nursing services, health screening services, other health-related services, supervisory care services, personal care services, directed care services and includes home health agencies.

“Home health agency (HHA) / home health care agency” A public or private organization that provides home health services supervised by a licensed health professional in a person’s home, either directly or through arrangements with other organizations.

“Home health aide” A person who, under the supervision of a home health or social service agency, assists an older, ill or disabled person with household chores, bathing, personal care and other daily living needs.

“Hospice care” A cluster of comprehensive services that address the needs of dying persons and their families, including medical, spiritual, legal, financial and family support services.

“Incontinence” The loss of bladder and/or bowel control.

“Inpatient” An individual who has been admitted to a hospital or other facility for diagnosis and/or treatment that requires at least an overnight stay.

“Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL)” Activities with aspects of cognitive and social functioning, including shopping, cooking, doing housework, managing money and using the telephone.

“Long-term care (LTC) / long-term aged care” A range of health care, personal care and social services provided to individuals who, due to frailty or level of physical or intellectual disability, are no longer able to live independently. Services may be for varying periods of time and may be provided in a person’s home, in the community or in residential facilities (e.g. nursing homes or assisted living facilities). These people have relatively stable medical conditions and are unlikely to greatly improve their level of functioning through medical intervention.

“Meals on wheels” A service which provides nutritious meals at a nominal fee to people in their homes who are homebound and/or disabled or would otherwise be unable to maintain their dietary needs.

"Nursing care institution" A health care institution that provides inpatient beds or resident beds and nursing services to persons who need continuous nursing services but who do not require hospital care or direct daily care from a physician. Nursing care institution does not include an institution for the care and treatment of the sick that is operated only for those who rely solely on treatment by prayer or spiritual means in accordance with the tenets of a recognized religious denomination.

“Ombudsman” A person who investigates complaints and mediates fair settlements, especially between aggrieved parties, such as consumers, and an institution or organization.

“Palliative care” The active total care offered to a person and that person’s family when it is recognized that the illness is no longer curable, in order to concentrate on the person’s quality of life and the alleviation of distressing symptoms. The focus of palliative care is neither to hasten nor postpone death. It provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms and integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of care. It offers a support system to help relatives and friends cope during an individual’s illness and with their bereavement.

“Patient assessment (resident)” Standardized tools to determine patient characteristics and abilities, what assistance they need and how they may be helped to improve or regain abilities. Patient assessment forms are completed using information gathered from medical records, interviews with the patient, other informants (e.g. family members) and direct observation.

“Patient-centered care” An approach to care that consciously adopts a patient’s perspective. This perspective can be characterized around dimensions such as respect for patients’ values, preferences and expressed needs; coordination and integration of care; information, communication and education; physical comfort, emotional support and alleviation of fear and anxiety; involvement of family and friends; or transition and continuity.

“Quality of life” The product of the interplay between social, health, economic and environmental conditions which affect human and social development. It is a broad-ranging concept, incorporating a person’s physical health, psychological state, level of independence, social relationships, personal beliefs and relationship to salient features in the environment. As people age, their quality of life is largely determined by their ability to access needed resources and maintain autonomy and independence.

“Rehabilitation” A proactive and goal-oriented activity to restore function and/or to maximize remaining function to bring about the highest possible level of independence, physically, psychologically, socially and economically. It involves combined and coordinated use of medical, nursing and allied health skills, along with social, educational and vocational services, to provide individual assessment, treatment, regular review, discharge planning and follow-up. Rehabilitation is concerned, not only with physical recovery, but also with psychological and social recovery and reintegration (or integration) of the person into the community.

“Rehabilitation hospital” A hospital that specializes in providing restorative services to rehabilitate chronically ill and/or disabled individuals to a maximum level of functioning.

“Rehabilitation service” A service designed to improve function and/or prevent deterioration of functioning. Such services may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech therapy. They may be provided at home, in a hospital or in a long-term care facility.

“Respite care” Services provided in the home, at a day care centre or by temporary placement in a nursing home or residential home to functionally disabled or frail individuals to provide occasional or systematic relief to informal caregivers.

“Retirement village / retirement community” A community which provides several levels/types of housing and services for older people, ranging from independent living units to nursing homes, on one site but generally in separate buildings.

"Residential unit" A private apartment, unless otherwise requested by a resident, that includes a living and sleeping space, kitchen area, private bathroom and storage area.


“Skilled nursing care” Daily nursing and rehabilitative care that can only be performed by, or under the supervision of, skilled nursing personnel.

“Skilled nursing facility” Nursing homes that are certified to provide a fairly intensive level of care, including skilled nursing care.

“Transitional care” A type of short-term care provided by some long-term care facilities and hospitals, which may include rehabilitation services, specialized care for certain conditions (such as stroke and diabetes) and/or post-surgical care and other services associated with the transition between hospital and home.


"Directed care services" Programs and services, including supervisory and personal care services, that are provided to persons who are incapable of recognizing danger, summoning assistance, expressing need or making basic care decisions.

"Personal care services" Assistance with activities of daily living that can be performed by persons without professional skills or professional training and includes the coordination or provision of intermittent nursing services and the administration of medications and treatments by a nurse.

"Supervisory care services" General supervision, including daily awareness of resident functioning and continuing needs, the ability to intervene in a crisis and assistance in the self-administration of prescribed medications.

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