Welcome to our homecare glossary a section full of different terms and definitions from the homecare industry. The aim of this resource is to help our service users and their friends and family to understand the various terminology used in the care industry and of course as a result on this website. This is useful if you are unsure of something you have heard of when researching domiciliary / care in the home services for either yourself or a friend / family member.
Abuse - Harm that is caused by anyone who has power over another person, which may include family members, friends, unpaid carers and health or social care workers. It can take various forms, including physical harm or neglect, and verbal, emotional or sexual abuse. Adults at risk can also be the victim of financial abuse from people they trust. Abuse may be carried out by individuals or by the organisation that employs them.
Active listening - A way of listening that enables you to be fully heard, especially if you have dementia or difficulties with communication. Someone who is actively listening to you will be making eye contact, not interrupting, giving you their full attention, not doing other things, and checking with you that they understand what you are saying.
Active participation - When you are included in decisions about your care and support, and have a say in how you live your life and how you want to spend your time.
Activities of daily living - Things you do every day to look after yourself, such as eating, washing, dressing and using the toilet. An assessment of your needs will look at how well you can manage your activities of daily living, and what help and support you need.
Adult at risk - An adult who is in need of extra support because of their age, disability, or physical or mental ill-health, and who may be unable to protect themselves from harm, neglect or exploitation.
Adult social care - Care and support for adults who need extra help to manage their lives and be independent - including older people, people with a disability or long-term illness, people with mental health problems, and carers. Adult social care includes assessment of people's needs, provision of services or allocation of funds to enable you to purchase your own care and support. It includes residential care, home care, personal assistants, day services, the provision of aids and adaptations and personal budgets.
Advanced decision - A decision you make about what medical treatment you would or would not want in the future, if you were unable to make decisions because of illness or because you lacked capacity to consent. Unlike an advance statement, it is legally binding in England and Wales. If you are thinking about making an advance decision, you should talk about this with your family and your GP.
Advanced statement - A written document that lets people know what your wishes, feelings and preferences are about your future care and support, in case you become unable to tell them. (It may also be included in your support plan.) It can cover any aspect of your care, such as where you want to live and how you like to do things. You can write it yourself, with support from your family, friends, doctor and anyone else you wish. It isn't a legal document, but it may help you get the care and support you want. It is different to an 'advance decision' about medical treatment, which is a decision you can make now about whether you want a particular type of treatment in the future.
Advocacy - Help to enable you to get the care and support you need that is independent of your local council. An advocate can help you express your needs and wishes, and weigh up and take decisions about the options available to you. They can help you find services, make sure correct procedures are followed and challenge decisions made by councils or other organisations. The advocate is there to represent your interests, which they can do by supporting you to speak, or by speaking on your behalf. They do not speak for the council or any other organisation. If you wish to speak up for yourself to make your needs and wishes heard, this is known as self-advocacy.
Aids & adaptations - Help to make things easier for you around the home. If you are struggling or disabled, you may need special equipment to enable you to live more comfortably and independently. You may also need changes to your home to make it easier and safer to get around. Aids and adaptations include things like grab rails, ramps, walk-in showers and stair-lifts.
Assessment - The process of working out what your needs are. A community care assessment looks at how you are managing everyday activities such as looking after yourself, household tasks and getting out and about. You are entitled to an assessment if you have social care needs, and your views are central to this process.
Assisstive & adaptive technology - Devices or equipment to help you do things if you have a disability. The term often refers to systems that help people communicate if they have problems with speaking. Equipment that helps you carry out daily activities and manage more easily and safely in your own home. Examples include electronic medicine dispensers, memory prompts, 'big button' telephones or remote controls, and pendant alarms for wearing around your neck or wrist. It also includes equipment that can detect potential hazards in your home, such as a fire or flood, or that can alert a carer or the emergency services in the event of a fall or seizure.
Autonomy - Having control and choice over your life and the freedom to decide what happens to you. Even when you need a lot of care and support, you should still be able to make your own choices and should be treated with dignity.
Barred list - An official list of people who are unsuitable to work or volunteer with children or with adults who may be at risk of harm or abuse, because of their past record. If you employ someone regularly to provide personal care, you should expect them to have completed a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which will show whether they are on the barred list or not.
Best interests - Other people should act in your 'best interests' if you are unable to make a particular decision for yourself (for example, about your health or your finances). The law does not define what 'best interests' might be, but gives a list of things that the people around you must consider when they are deciding what is best for you. These include your wishes, feelings and beliefs, the views of your close family and friends on what you would want, and all your personal circumstances.
Capacity - The ability to make your own choices and decisions. In order to do this, you need to be able to understand and remember information, and communicate clearly - whether verbally or non-verbally - what you have decided. A person may lack capacity because of a mental health problem, dementia or learning disability.
Capacity to consent - 'Consent' is when you give your permission to someone to do something to you or for you. 'Capacity' is your ability to understand what you are being asked to decide, to make a decision and to communicate that decision to people around you. Mental capacity can vary over time. If you have capacity to consent, then you understand what you are being asked to agree to, and you are able to let people know whether you agree. See also informed consent.
Care Act 2014 - A law passed in England in 2014 that sets out what care and support you are entitled to and what local councils have to do. According to the law, councils have to consider your wellbeing, assess your needs and help you get independent financial advice on paying for care and support.
Care package - The range of services offered to you as an individual by your council, following an assessment of your needs. It may include day services, aids and adaptations for your home and personal care.
Care plan - A written plan after you have had an assessment, setting out what your care and support needs are, how they will be met (including what you or anyone who cares for you will do) and what services you will receive. You should have the opportunity to be fully involved in the plan and to say what your own priorities are. If you are in a care home or attend a day service, the plan for your daily care may also be called a care plan.
Care Quality Commission (CQC) - An organisation set up by the Government to make sure that all hospitals, care homes, dentists, GPs and home care agencies in England provide care that is safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led. If you are unhappy with the care or support you receive, you can contact CQC to let them know. Although CQC cannot investigate complaints about an individual person's treatment or care, it inspects services and will use any information it receives from you to help it decide what to look at during an inspection.
Care records - Information about you that is collected and kept by organisations that assess your needs and provide care and support services. Your records include basic personal details such as your name, address, date of birth, close relatives and carers, as well as information about your health and ability to carry out activities of daily living, and what has been agreed about your care and support. Your care records must be kept safely, and you should be asked if you are happy for them to be shared with people who are involved in your care. You have the right to see your own records and should receive a copy of all assessments and care plans.
Care worker - A person who is paid to support someone who is ill, struggling or disabled and could not manage without this help.
Carer - A person who provides unpaid support to a partner, family member, friend or neighbour who is ill, struggling or disabled and could not manage without this help. This is distinct from acare worker, who is paid to support people.
Carer's allowance - A weekly payment from the Government if you provide support to a partner, family member, friend or neighbour, who could not manage without your help. You don't have to be related to the person or live with them to be able to claim Carer's Allowance. Whether you can claim it depends on how many hours a week you provide care for, what benefits the person you care for receives, and how much you earn (but not how much money you have in savings).
Carers assessment - If you are an unpaid carer for a family member or friend, you have the right to discuss with your local council what your own needs are, separate to the needs of the person you care for. You can discuss anything that you think would help you with your own health or with managing other aspects of your life. The council uses this information to decide what help it can offer you.
Case conference - A meeting that is usually held when you are believed to be at risk of harm or abuse. The purpose is to discuss your situation and decide on a course of action to keep you safe. It will be attended by people who know you, such as your GP, community nurse or social worker. You (or your representative) should also be invited to the meeting.
Challenging behaviour - Behaviour that may cause harm to the person or to those around them, and may make it difficult for them to go out and about. It may include aggression, self-injury or disruptive or destructive behaviour. It is often caused by a person's difficulty in communicating what they need - perhaps because of a learning disability, autism, dementia or a mental health problem. People whose behaviour is a threat to their own wellbeing or to others need the right support. They may be referred by their GP to a specialist behavioural team. The specialist team will work on understanding the causes of the behaviour and finding solutions. This is sometimes known as positive behaviour support.
Chronic condition - A persistent or long-lasting illness or health condition that you live with, that cannot be cured but can usually be managed with medicines, treatments, care and support.
Cognitive impairment - A problem with your brain that may make it difficult for you to remember things, solve problems, learn new things or make decisions. It may be mild or severe, and may be something you are born with or caused by an illness or injury.
Community equipment service - A service in your area that supplies equipment to you, on loan, to enable you to live safely in your own home and remain independent. The type of equipment offered includes walking aids, bathing aids, special beds and other things that may be useful to you after a hospital stay, or to enable you to remain at home rather than going into a care home. A health professional such as a nurse or therapist will carry out an assessment of what you need. The service is likely to be a partnership arrangement between your council and local NHS organisations.
Complaint - When you express that you are unhappy with some aspect of a service that has been provided or with how someone has acted towards you.
Complex needs - You may have complex needs if you require a high level of support with many aspects of your daily life and rely on a range of health and social care services. This may be because of illness, disability or loss of sight or hearing - or a combination of these. Complex needs may be present from birth, or may develop following illness or injury or as people get older.
Confidentiality - Keeping information about someone safe and private, and not sharing it without the person's knowledge and agreement. Any information you provide about yourself should be protected carefully, and should only be shared with people or organisations who genuinely need to know it. Your personal details should not be discussed without your agreement.
Consent - When you give your permission to someone to do something to you or for you.
Continuing health care - Ongoing care outside hospital for someone who is ill or disabled, arranged and funded by the NHS. This type of care can be provided anywhere, and can include the full cost of a place in a nursing home. It is provided when your need for day to day support is mostly due to your need for health care, rather than social care. The Government has issued guidance to the NHS on how people should be assessed for continuing health care, and who is entitled to receive it.
Continuity of care - There are two meanings to the phrase 'continuity of care': seeing the same doctor or other care professional every time you have an appointment, or having your care well coordinated by a number of different professionals who communicate well with each other and with you. It is particularly important if you have a long-term condition or complex needs.
Court of protection - An English court that makes decisions about the property, finances, health and welfare of people who lack mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. The court can appoint a 'deputy' to make ongoing decisions on behalf of someone who lacks capacity. It is also able to grant power of attorney.
Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards - Legal protection for people in hospitals or care homes who are unable to make decisions about their own care and support, property or finances. People with mental health conditions, including dementia, may not be allowed to make decisions for themselves, if this is deemed to be in their best interests. The safeguards exist to make sure that people do not lose the right to make their own decisions for the wrong reasons.
Dignity - Being worthy of respect as a human being and being treated as if you matter. You should be treated with dignity by everyone involved in your care and support. If dignity is not part of the care and support you receive, you may feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and unable to make decisions for yourself. Dignity applies equally to everyone, regardless of whether they have capacity.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) - A government organisation that checks people's criminal records, in order to prevent unsuitable people from working with children or adults who may be at risk of harm or abuse.
Discrimination - Treating a person, or a group of people, differently to other people because of their sex, age, race or other things. It usually means treating the person unfairly and not offering them the same opportunities as other people.
Diversity - Recognising and respecting people's differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, and other things. Valuing and including people from different backgrounds, and helping everyone contribute to the community.
Domiciliary care - Otherwise known as 'care at home', 'homecare' or 'home care', this is where a care worker provides help and support to an individual at home helping them to maintain their independence and enjoy living in their own home.
Duty of candour - When something goes wrong with the health or social care that is provided to you, the organisation that provides the care has a legal duty to be open with you, to explain what has happened and to apologise to you.
Enablement - A way of helping you to become more independent by gaining the ability to move around and do everyday tasks for yourself. You may be offered an enablement service if you have lost some daily living skills because of poor health, disability or a hospital stay. It usually lasts for around six weeks, takes place in your own home, and you won't have to pay.
Equality - When every individual person has an equal opportunity to make the most of their life and is treated fairly, regardless of their race, gender, disability, belief, sexual orientation or age.
Home care - Care provided in your own home by paid care workers to help you with your daily life. It is also known as domiciliary care. Home care workers are usually employed by an independent agency, and the service may be arranged by your local council or by you (or someone acting on your behalf).
Implied consent - When you are not specifically asked if you agree to something being done to you, but you behave as if you understand and agree. For example, putting your arm out when a nurse or doctor comes to take a blood sample suggests 'implied consent' on your part. Implied consent also applies if you are unconscious in an emergency. Medical staff may assume that you would agree to treatment if it is necessary to save your life.
Independent living - The right to choose the way you live your life. It does not necessarily mean living by yourself or doing everything for yourself. It means the right to receive the assistance and support you need so you can participate in your community and live the life you want.
Independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA) - An independent person who is knowledgeable about the Mental Capacity Act and people's rights. An IMCA represents someone who does not have capacity to consent to specific decisions, such as whether they should move to a new home or agree to medical treatment. The law says that people over the age of 16 have the right to receive support from an IMCA, if they lack capacity and have no-one else to support or represent them.
Independent personal budget - A statement provided by your council, if you arrange and pay for your own care, which sets out what it would cost the council to meet your eligible care and support needs. From April 2020, the costs set out in your independent personal budget will count towards the cap on care costs.
Informed consent - When you have received the right information to enable you to decide whether to allow someone to do something to you or for you. You should only give consent if you understand what you are being asked to agree to, what the benefits and risks might be, and what the alternatives are if you do not agree. See also capacity to consent.
Intermediate care - A wide range of services aimed at keeping you at home rather than in hospital, or helping you to come home early from hospital after illness or injury. It is normally made up of a specific programme of care for a fixed period of time, usually up to six weeks, and is free of charge. See also reablement.
Lasting Power of Attorney - A legal decision you make to allow specific people to to make decisions on your behalf. Click here to read more about why you should consider putting a Legal Power of Attorney in place and how to go about doing so.
Learning disability - A term that is used to describe a brain impairment that may make it difficult for someone to communicate, to understand new or complex information, or to learn new skills. The person may need help to manage everyday tasks or live independently. Learning disability starts in childhood and has a lasting effect on a person's development. It can affect people mildly or severely.
Mental capacity act - A law that is designed to protect people who are unable to make decisions about their own care and support, property or finances, because of a mental health condition, learning disability, brain injury or illness. 'Mental capacity' is the ability to make decisions for yourself. The law says that people may lose the right to make decisions if this is in their best interests. Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are included in the law, to make sure that people are treated fairly.
Needs assessment - The process of considering whether you need help or support because of your age, disability or illness. Anyone who appears to have a need for care or support - regardless of how severe those needs are or how much money they have - is entitled to a needs assessment, which can be arranged by contacting the adult social services department at your local council and requesting it.
Neglect - When you are mistreated by not being given the care and support you need, if you are unable to care for yourself. It may include not being given enough food, or the right kind of food, being left without help to wash or change your clothes, or not being helped to see a doctor when you need to.
Nominated individual - A person who leads a care service (such as a care home or home care agency) and makes sure that the service is safe and good enough quality. The nominated individual is the service's main point of contact with the Care Quality Commission. (The term 'nominated person' means something different, and is defined separately.)
Occupational therapist - A professional with specialist training in working with people with different types of disability or mental health needs. An OT can help you learn new skills or regain lost skills, and can arrange for aids and adaptations you need in your home. Occupational therapists are employed both by the NHS and by local councils.
Palliative care - Care that you receive if you have an advanced, progressive illness for which there is no cure. The aim is to manage pain and other symptoms and to help you have best quality of life you can. It may be provided in your home or in a hospital or hospice.
Personal budget - Money that is allocated to you by your local council to pay for care or support to meet your assessed needs. The money comes solely from adult social care. You can take your personal budget as a direct payment, or choose to leave the council to arrange services (sometimes known as a managed budget) - or a combination of the two. An alternative is an individual service fund, which is a personal budget that a care provider manages on your behalf. A personal health budget may also be available: it is a plan for your health care that you develop and control, knowing how much NHS money is available.
Personal care - Help with personal matters such as eating, drinking, washing, going to the toilet, getting up, getting dressed, going to bed, taking medicines and other things.
Personalisation - A way of thinking about care and support services that puts you at the centre of the process of working out what your needs are, choosing what support you need and having control over your life. It is about you as an individual, not about groups of people whose needs are assumed to be similar, or about the needs of organisations.
Person centred care - An approach that puts the person receiving care and support at the centre of the way care is planned and delivered. It is based around you and your own needs, preferences and priorities. It treats you as an equal partner, and puts into practice the principle of 'no decision about me without me'.
Primary care - The first point of contact in the health service, usually your GP, practice nurse, local pharmacist, dentist or NHS walk-in centre. Primary care doctors deal with a wide range of health problems. They treat common illnesses, help you manage long-term conditions and refer you to a specialist doctor when necessary.
Privacy - Being able to spend time alone or with your family or friends without other people seeing you or overhearing your conversations. It also means respect for confidentiality and your personal information and not sharing this with anyone unless you agree.
Reablement - A way of helping you remain independent, by giving you the opportunity to relearn or regain some of the skills for daily living that may have been lost as a result of illness, accident or disability. It is similar to rehabilitation, which helps people recover from physical or mental illness. Your council may offer a reablement service for a limited period in your own home that includes personal care, help with activities of daily living, and practical tasks around the home.
Registered Manager - The person who is responsible for running an adult care service such as a care home or home care agency. The registered manager is responsible for leading the service and making sure that standards are high.
Respect - Being treated well and as if you and your views and feelings matter to the person or organisation you are dealing with. The Care Act 2014 says that your council should always consider your wellbeing when making decisions that affect you, and that treating you with respect is part of considering your wellbeing.
Respite care - A service giving carers a break, by providing short-term care for the person with care needs in their own home or in a residential setting. It can mean a few hours during the day or evening, 'night sitting', or a longer-term break. It can also benefit the person with care needs by giving them the chance to try new activities and meet new people.
Review - When you receive a re-assessment of your needs and you and the people in your life look at whether the services you are receiving are meeting your needs and helping you achieve your chosen outcomes. Changes can then be made if necessary.
Risk assessment - An assessment of your health, safety, wellbeing and ability to manage your essential daily routines. You might also hear the term risk enablement, which means finding a way of managing any risks effectively so that you can still do the things you want to do.
Safeguarding - The process of ensuring that adults at risk are not being abused, neglected or exploited, and ensuring that people who are deemed 'unsuitable' do not work with them. If you believe that you or someone you know is being abused, you should let the adult social care department at your local council know. They should carry out an investigation and put a protection plan in place if abuse is happening. Councils have a duty to work with other organisations to protect adults from abuse and neglect. They do this through local safeguarding boards.
Sensory impairment - When one of your senses - sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste - does not work properly. It does not necessarily mean a total loss of one or more of your senses. You may be born with a sensory impairment, or develop it later in life.
Service user - A person who receives services from a care and support provider. Not everyone likes this term, and may prefer to be described simply as a 'person who uses services' rather than a 'service user.'
Social care - Any help that you need, such as personal care or practical assistance, to live your life as comfortably and independently as possible, because of age, illness or disability.
Telecare - Technology that enables you to remain independent and safe in your own home, by linking your home with a monitoring centre that can respond to problems. Examples are pendant alarms that you wear round your neck, automatic pill dispensers, and sensors placed in your home to detect if you have fallen or to recognise risks such as smoke, floods or gas-leaks. The monitoring centre is staffed by trained operators who can arrange for someone to come to your home or contact your family, doctor or emergency services.
Vulnerable adult - An adult who may need care and support because of their age, disability or illness, and may be unable to protect themselves from harm, neglect or abuse.