Interpreting Medical Terminology — Your Complete Home Healthcare Guide


Is it all Greek to you?

Have you found yourself navigating the healthcare world for yourself or a loved one and it seems like the information was written in another language? For the most part, patient information is written in layman’s terms at an eighth-grade comprehension level, however, when the ideas are foreign concepts, this does little to help. The same way a banker and a construction site manager would stare blankly at each other as they attempted to explain the specifics of what they do day-to-day. Fret not, in today’s post, we are going to help clarify some home health medical terms so that you and your family have all the information you need, in terms that you can understand. Think of this post as the ultimate home health glossary.

Activities of Daily Living (ADL): ADLs are those activities that individuals do to manage personal care. These activities include eating, bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting. Most agencies and insurance companies qualify care needs based on how much assistance one needs with ADLs.

Advanced Directive: An advanced directive, or living will, is a legal document that communicates an individual’s medical wishes and healthcare choices. This document is referenced in the event that an individual is unable to verbalize their wishes due to their condition.

Assisted Living (ALF): Assisted living is a housing option for older adults who require some help with ADLs, housekeeping, or intermittent medical care. Assisted living facilities typically offer prepared meals, activities, housekeeping, and assistance with transportation and medication administration.

Companion Care: Companion care are services provided by non-medical personnel that include help with ADLs, transportation, or simply being present for their patients. Companions often take care of housekeeping, can run errands, and participate in engaging activities, as well as help with mobility.

Durable Medical Equipment (DME): DME is equipment that is used in the home to provide a better quality of life and help assist with medical or physical limitations. Examples of DME include walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds, lift chairs, crutches, canes, blood pressure or blood sugar monitors, oxygen tanks, and CPAP machines.

Hospice: Hospice care is end-of-life care for the terminally ill patient. Hospice care may include palliative care as well as medical treatment to support the end-of-life journey for patients and their families.

Independent Living: Independent living facilities or housing is that which offers personal homes, condos, or apartments in a community setting with access to common areas and activities to promote a high quality of life. There is usually dining, housekeeping, and quick access to the medical care available. Independent living allows residents to live in their own space without having to manage bills, property, or the large space of the typical home, all in a social community setting.

Long-term Care: Long-term care can be administered in the home or in a facility and is the care that is provided for extended periods of time. Long-term care can be the result of illness, injury, incapacitation, or physical decline during the aging process. 

Medicare: Medicare is the federal program that provides health care coverage to people over the age of 65. Medicare is the largest payor of home health care and skilled nursing services in the nation. Medicare sets specific guidelines regarding who is eligible and what services will be paid. To see if you qualify, visit them online.

Nursing Home: A nursing home is a facility that provides extensive assistance with ADLs, mobility, and long-term medical care. Nursing home residents have access to 24-hour personal and medical care to help with all of their needs

Palliative Care: Palliative care is medical care whose goal is not treating and curing, but focused on the comfort and quality of life of a patient with a life-ending illness.

Plan of Care: A plan of care is developed with the input of a multidisciplinary medical team and the patient. It lists the patient’s goals and directs various services in their care. As a patient progresses, the plan of care can be updated or modified.

Rehabilitation Care: Rehabilitative services are those that are focused on maintaining, regaining, or improving physical function after an injury or illness. Rehab services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

Respite Care: Respite care is a short-term or intermittent care service that is provided to offer relief to primary caretakers. Respite care can come in the form of a companion sitting with you for a few hours or may include a short stay in a nursing home for leaves of absence.

Skilled Nursing (SNF): Skilled nursing and skilled nursing facilities are specific medical care that is provided by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) under the orders of a physician. Skilled nursing services include around-the-clock medical care, rehabilitative care, and assistance with ADLs.

Therapy: Therapies include occupational, physical, and speech therapies that help maintain or improve strength and function. Occupational therapy is focused on activities of daily living and the ability to feed, bathe, toilet, and groom oneself. Physical therapy focuses on the strength and function of motor skills and mobility. Speech therapy focuses on speech and swallowing abilities.

At Angels on Call Homecare, we strive to make every interaction with you and your family as informative and comfortable as possible. If you ever don’t understand something that is said or written, please don’t hesitate to ask our friendly and knowledgeable staff. They are always willing to explain things in a manner that makes sense and answer all of your questions. If you are interested in home healthcare services in New York, for yourself or your loved one, contact us today!

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