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 37 - 48 of 411 results.
Term Description


An attack on a person or persons which may include, but are not limited to, verbal, physical or sexual acts.

Assessment of capacity

A process conducted by a suitably qualified professional to determine a person's ability to understand information and make decisions for themselves at a particular point in time about a specific issue.

Assessment of need

A process carried out by suitably qualified professionals to identify the needs (e.g. healthcare, financial, social) of an individual who may require health or social care services.

Assistant director of nursing (ADON)

A senior nurse manager that reports to the director of nursing.

Assisted decision-making

An arrangement where a service user can be supported by a decision-supporter to make decisions about their care and welfare.

Assistive technology

Any device or system that allows an individual to perform a task that they would otherwise be unable to do, or increases the ease and safety with which the task can be performed.


An official examination of records and practices.

Autism spectrum disorder

A neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave.


The ability of a person to direct how they live on a day-to-day basis according to personal values, beliefs and preferences. In a health and social care setting, autonomy involves the person using a service making informed decisions about their care, support or treatment.

Aware (consciousness)

When a person is responsive to prompts and is conscious of the environment around them.

Alternative term(s) not to be used : Alert


A usually initial set of critical observations or data used for comparison or a control.

Bed bumper

A device made of soft material which is placed at the side of a bed to prevent a person falling out of the bed.