The Lexicon for Social Care is an initiative by HIQA’s Chief Inspector of Social Service. The Lexicon provides a list of commonly-used words relevant to social care, along with a definition. The use of standardised language is important for clarity and consistency and all providers of social care are encouraged to use the Lexicon in their communications with HIQA. Below are links to useful documents as well as a search function for the Lexicon.

If you wish to comment or leave feedback on the Lexicon for Social Care then please click here or simply email

  • Guidance for providers on submitting notifications

  • Lexicon for Social Care (PDF)

  • Infographic about the Lexicon


Lexicon catalogue

Displaying 13 - 24 of 411 results.
Term Description


The act or process of accepting someone as a patient or resident at a health or social care service.


The act of legally taking a child to be taken care of as your own.

Advance healthcare directive

In relation to a person who has capacity, means an advance expression made by the person, in accordance with section 84 (AMD Act, 2015), of his or her will and preferences concerning treatment decisions that may arise in respect of him or her if he or she subsequently lacks capacity.

Advanced practitioner

Professionals who are educated to master's degree level and are approved by a relevant body to have the competencies to be senior decision makers that undertake a comprehensive advanced physical and/or mental health assessment of people with complex multiple healthcare needs.

Adverse events

Situations that arise during the provision of care and support from action/inaction that actually/potentially necessitate medical intervention, impact people's human rights, wellbeing or overall care, or lead to decline in health status, disability, infection, or death.

Alternative term(s) not to be used : Adverse incidents


A process of empowerment of the person which takes many forms and includes taking action to help communicate wants, secure rights, represent interests or obtain services needed.


A person who takes action to empower another person and takes many forms and includes taking action to help communicate wants, secure rights, represent interests or obtain services needed.

Agency staff

An individual employed by an employment agency under a contract of employment by virtue of which the individual may be assigned to work for, and under the direction and supervision of, a person other than the employment agency.


Hostile behaviour and/or attitude towards an individual or group that results in verbal and/or physical attacks.


Worry and anxiety that make a person feel uneasy.

Airway/breathing/circulation (ABC)

A systematic approach to the immediate assessment and treatment of critically ill or injured patients.

Alarm bracelet

A wearable device worn by a service user that alerts staff if the person enters a particular area.