There is a lot of confusion about all the types of outpatient health care services, so I thought it was time to clear things up. I have gleaned the World Wide Web to compile the best definitions possible.
Acute care: “... a pattern of health care in which a patient is treated for a brief but severe episode of illness, for the sequelae [injuries sustained via] an accident or other trauma, or during recovery from surgery ... usually given in a hospital by specialized personnel and may involve intensive or emergency care. This pattern of care is often necessary for only a short time.” (The Medical Dictionary/The Free Dictionary)
Adult day care: “Provides social and other personal services including supervision and assistance with some [activities of daily living services] in a community setting ... at anytime of the day but care is always less than 24 hours. Adult day care facilities are often used in combination with home and family caregivers in order to give the primary caregiver a break.” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Ambulatory care: “Medical care including diagnosis, observation, treatment and rehabilitation that is provided on an outpatient basis. Ambulatory care is given to persons who are able to ... walk about. A well-baby visit is considered ambulatory care even though the baby may not yet be walking.” (MedicineNet.com)
Assisted living communities: “... provide personal care and assistance with [activities of daily living] in a residential setting for those that aren’t able to live independently but do not require the level of round-the-clock care provided in a nursing home ...” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Chronic care: “Care and services ... to help achieve functional independence for those with continuing and long-term health problems ... Chronic conditions ... generally have no specific cure and require care over a protracted period of time ... often used interchangeably with Long Term Care ...” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Continuing care: “…includes all of the services provided by Long Term Care, Home Care and Home Support…care may ‘continue’ over a long period of time, and…there is a continuum of care from community services.” (Canadian Institute of Health Information)
Home Care: “Skilled and unskilled Long Term Care services provided in the home” (CompleteLongTermCare.com) though there is a trend to differentiate between skilled and unskilled or personal care services.
Home Health Care: “Health care services provided in the home on a part-time basis for the treatment of an illness or injury, and covered by Medicare only if skilled care is needed and required on an intermittent or part-time basis.” (Sloan Work and Family Research Network Boston College)
Hospice care: “Designed to give supportive and palliative care to people in the final phase of a terminal illness ... at home or in a hospice facility and encompasses physical, emotional and spiritual support for the patient and their family.” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Independent living communities: “... are much like apartments or condominiums ... appropriate for seniors who do not need assistance with daily activities ... but desire a community of seniors who may share meals and activities together as they choose.” (Assisted Living Federation of America)
Informal care: “Care provided by family and friends ... unlicensed and generally unpaid, informal care makes up a majority of in-home care ...” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Long-term care facilities (Residential care): “... provide care for clients who can no longer live safely at home. Residential care services provide a safe, protective, supportive environment and assistance with activities of daily living for clients who cannot remain at home due to their need for medication supervision, 24-hour surveillance, assisted meal service, professional nursing care and/or supervision. Clients may have moderate to heavy care needs which can no longer be safely or consistently delivered in the community ... all facility services, including chronic care, are provided in Long Term Care facilities.” (Canadian Institute for Health Information)
Nursing homes: “The highest intensity level of Long Term Care. A skilled nursing facility is ... a health facility or a distinct part of a hospital that provides 24-hour a day nursing care on an inpatient basis. Skilled nursing facilities will have a registered nurse or LPN on duty at all times and a licensed physician on call at all times.” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Palliative care: “... improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing ... life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”
Personal/custodial care: Non-medical care and assistance needed to help a person perform activities of daily living and/or supervision and assistance for someone suffering from severe cognitive impairment.” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Respite care: “... refers to temporary or short-term care provided to the patient so that the primary informal care-giver can take a break or rest ... at home or in a facility…” (Completelongtermcare.com)
Senior Living (senior housing and care): “... is a lifestyle choice for individuals seeking an independent lifestyle with as much assistance as they need or want. The settings are just like [a home], but with the added advantage of meals and entertainment, housekeeping, transportation, and assistance with daily activities.” (Assisted Living Federation of America)
Special care units: “Assisted living communities for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia ...” (Assisted Living Federation of America).
For more definitions relating to long-term care, please visit CompleteLongTermCare.com and any of the resources below.
Canadian Institute of Health Information http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/en/downloads/indicators_contcare_e_CCIndctr.pdf
Assisted Living Federation of America http://www.alfa.org/alfa/Consumer_Corner.asp?SnID=310709833
World Health Organization
Sloan Work and Family Research Network Boston College http://wfnetwork.bc.edu/glossary_entry.php?term=Home%20Health%20Care,%20Definition%28s%29%20of&area=All
The Free Dictionary.com
Reviewed on August 25, 2011
by Maryann Gromisch
Edited by Jody Smith