Glossary of Terms

Choosing homecare for yourself or a loved one can be a difficult decision; it can be made more overwhelming when trying to understand frequently used terms in the homecare industry. Below is a list of commonly used words and phrases to assist you in understanding terminology for care.


ADLs - This stands for "activities of daily living" and includes basic activities of daily life.  Examples of ADLs include: bathing, dressing, eating, moving around, toileting, and walking. A home health aide, home health care nurse, or custodial care individual can assist with these activities.


Advance Directive- A written instruction relating the provision of health care when an adult becomes incapacitated including, but not limited to, a health proxy, a living will and consent to or request for the issuance of an order not to resuscitate


Caregiver - A caregiver is someone who gives care to another person. There are two types of caregivers: medical caregivers and non-medical caregivers. Medical caregivers, such as registered nurses, provide assistance to patients with medical needs. Non-medical caregivers, such as home health aides, help individuals with activities of daily living (ADLs) and companionship.


Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) - Certified Nursing Assistants work closely with patients and are responsible for basic care services such as bathing, grooming, feeding, assisting nurses with medical equipment, and checking vital signs such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and respirations. Exact certification requirements vary by state, but most include the completion of a certificate program and the passage of a certification exam. Maxim CNAs ensure our patients receive essential social and emotional support and provide vital information on patient conditions to nurses.


Companion - A companion serves a non-medical role in a patient's life. Maxim Companion Care Services caters to seniors, new and expectant parents, and other individuals. Companions perform duties such as reminder services (medications, dates, routines), assisting with mobility, providing companionship, preparing meals and feeding, escorting to appointments, organizing and reading mail, entertaining, and more. For additional information on Maxim Companion Care Services, visit our dedicated companion care Web site.


Custodial care - Custodial care is similar to companion care. It is non-medical care that assists with ADLs.


Elder Care - Elder care, sometimes spelled eldercare, is care for aged individuals. It is also commonly referred to as geriatric care or senior care, and includes a wide range of care services, including help with ADLs.


Geriatric care - Geriatric care is care for aged or older individuals. The term "geriatric care" is often interchangeable with elder care or senior care.


Health Care Proxy-A document delegating to another adult known as a health care agent, the authority to make health care decisions on behalf of the individual making the appt. if the individual in the future becomes incapable of making his or her own health care decisions.


Homecare - Homecare describes any form of care given within the home. This can range from care provided by a home health aide, home health nurse, companion, or caregiver and includes intermittent care, respite care, and home therapies. The term homecare covers both medical and non-medical forms of care.


Home health agency - A home health agency is an agency that provides home health care for individuals. These agencies are also often referred to as homecare agencies. Home health agencies help match a home health care professional with a patient in need of home health care.


Home health aide - A home health aide is a trained professional who provides non-medical health services. Home health aides primary tasks include personal care and assistance with Activities of Daily Living.


Home health nurse - A home health nurse is a nurse that works in a homecare environment. This includes RNs and LPNs.


Intermediate care - Intermediate care is health care that is performed between primary care services and independent self-care. Intermediate care often takes place after a hospital visit and before an individual has recovered enough to take care of his or her self. It is meant to provide a measure of independence to the individual while he or she is still relatively dependent on someone else for care. Intermediate care can be provided in a facility or in a home health care environment.


Intermittent care - Intermittent care occurs when an individual is in need of infrequent medical assistance. Intermittent care caregivers may only be required for a couple of hours a day and a few days a week. Many times, a caregiver may need to leave their loved one at home, but feel uncomfortable leaving them alone without a certified medical caregiver. Hiring a caregiver for intermittent care can help ease that fear.


Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) - Licensed Practical Nurses are licensed nurses that are required to pass a licensing examination known as the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse). The difference between an LPN and an RN is the amount of education required for a license (one year for an LPN license and two for an RN license).


Medical Social Workers (MSW) - A medical social worker works with individuals who are in need of psychosocial assistance. Maxim's medical social workers provide case management, grief counseling, coordination of community resources, assistance with the social/emotional effects of coping with acute and chronic illness in the home.


Medicaid- Medicaid is the United States health program for families and individuals with low income and resources. The Health Insurance Association of America describes Medicaid as a "government insurance program for persons of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care."


Medicare - Medicare is a federal program that helps pay for medical expenses of those aged 65 and over. Coverage varies depending on individual needs. Visit our page on Medicare as a payor source to learn more about how medicare can be used for home health services.


Occupational Therapist (OT) - Occupational therapists work with individuals living with mental, physical, and/or developmental disabilities and help them perform daily tasks. Occupational therapists assist a broad age range of individuals with a variety of disabilities.



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