Terms and Definitions

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.

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.
A written document stating how you want medical decisions to be made if you lose the ability to make them for yourself. It may include a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care.
An appeal is the action you can take if you disagree with a coverage or payment decision made by Medicare, your Medicare health plan, or your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. You have the right to appeal if Medicare, your Medicare health plan, or your Medicare drug plan denies one of these:

  • A request for a health care service, supply, item, or prescription drug that you think you should be able to get
  • A request for payment of a health care service, supply, item, or prescription drug you already got
  • A request to change the amount you must pay for a health care service, supply, item, or prescription drug

You can also appeal if Medicare, your Medicare health plan, or your Medicare drug plan stops providing or paying for all or part of a health care service, supply, item, or prescription drug you think you still need.

The health care items or services covered under a health insurance plan. Covered benefits and excluded services are defined in the health insurance plan’s coverage documents.
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 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.
Certain medical equipment, like a walker, wheelchair, or hospital bed, that’s ordered by your doctor for use in the home.
A legal document that enables you to designate another person to act on your behalf in the event you become disabled or incapacitated.
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 is care for aged or older individuals. The term “geriatric care” is often interchangeable with elder care or senior care.
To be homebound means:
1) You have trouble leaving your home without help (like using a cane, wheelchair, walker, or crutches; special transportation; or help from another person) because of an illness or injury, or
2) Leaving your home isn’t recommended because of your condition, and you’re normally unable to leave your home and leaving home is a major effort
*Note: You may leave home for medical treatment or short, infrequent absences for non-medical reasons, like attending religious services. You can still get home health care if you attend adult day care.
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. The term homecare covers both medical and non-medical forms of care.
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.
A home health aide is a trained professional who provides non-medical health services. Home health aide’s primary tasks include personal care and assistance with Activities of Daily Living.
Home health care is health care that occurs within one’s home. The term home health care and homecare are often interchanged; however, home health care refers to medical-related homecare while homecare encompasses all medical and non-medical homecare services. A home health care company provides services that include caregiver services, home health nursing, home therapists, home health aides, and more.
A home health nurse is a nurse that works in a homecare environment. This includes RNs and LPNs.
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).
Is a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources. Medicaid programs vary from state to state, but most health care costs are covered if you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.
A medical social worker works with individuals who are in need of psychosocial assistance. These social workers provide case management, grief counseling, coordination of community resources and offer assistance with the social/emotional effects of coping with acute and chronic illness in the home.
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.
This is a health care provider (like a home health agency, hospital, nursing home, or dialysis facility) that’s been approved by Medicare. Providers are approved or “certified” by Medicare if they’ve passed an inspection conducted by a state government agency. Medicare only covers care given by providers who are certified.
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.
A medical power of attorney is a document that lets you appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your medical care. This type of advance directive also may be called a health care proxy, appointment of health care agent, or a durable power of attorney for health care.
The doctor you see first for most health problems. He or she makes sure you get the care you need to keep you healthy. He or she also may talk with other doctors and health care providers about your care and refer you to them. In many Medicare Advantage Plans, you must see your primary care doctor before you see any other health care provider.
A written order from your primary care doctor for you to see a specialist or get certain medical services. In many Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), you need to get a referral before you can get medical care from anyone except your primary care doctor. If you don’t get a referral first, the plan may not pay for the services.
An RN is a Registered Nurse who has been recognized and licensed by the Missouri and Illinois State Boards of Nursing. In order to become an RN, a student must first complete a professional nursing program that covers a two year curriculum and is approved by the State Boards of Nursing. Then, the nursing program graduate must pass a State licensure examination following the completion of the educational requirement.
Health care services that help you keep, get back, or improve skills and functioning for daily living that you’ve lost or have been impaired because you were sick, hurt, or disabled. These services may include physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and psychiatric rehabilitation services.
Treatment that helps you strengthen or regain speech, language, and swallowing skills.
Medical or other health services given to a patient using a communications system (like a computer, phone, or television) by a practitioner in a location different than the patient’s.

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