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Hospice Glossary of Terms


Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

An individual’s activities engaged in throughout the day, eg. eating, bathing, dressing, getting in and out of bed, and using the toilet and telephone.


Acute Illness

A quickly on-setting illness from which the patient is expected to recover completely.


Aggressive Treatment

Medications, procedures and even experimental treatment intended to cure or slow the progress of an illness.


Advance Care Planning

A process that enables individuals to make plans about their future healthcare.


Advance Directive

A written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor.


Anticipatory  Grief

A grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. The impending loss is usually a death of someone close due to illness, but it can also be experienced by dying individuals themselves.



The pause of breathing for a short period, lasting less than 30 seconds but may go on for as long as one minute.


Bereavement Counseling

The process of discussing thoughts and feelings with a professional counselor while grieving the loss of a loved one. Learn more >


Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

A medical procedure involving repeated compression of a patient’s chest, performed in an attempt to restore the blood circulation and breathing of a person who has suffered cardiac arrest.


Care Transition

Change in a patient’s care (moving from hospital to home, doctor to doctor, etc.).


Caregiver Burnout

A caregiver’s state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.


Chronic Illness

An ongoing condition or illness not responding to treatment and in need of constant management.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

An ongoing condition producing poor, long-term airflow in the lungs resulting in shortness of breath and frequent coughing.



Certified Nursing Assistant.



A person appointed by the court that manages the money, property and business affairs of a disabled or incapacitated person.



The protective legal process in which the court may appoint a person called a conservator.


Coordination of Care

The deliberate organization of patient care activities between two or more participants involved in a patient’s care to facilitate the appropriate delivery of health care services.



A serious change in a person’s mental processes that result in a decreased awareness of one’s environment and confused thinking similar to dementia and potentially requiring a doctor to make a diagnosis.



A decline in mental capacity that’s more significant than expected due to aging.



The identification of the nature of an illness or other problem by examination of the symptoms.



The process of filtering blood through a machine via two small tubes inserted into the body in order to remove waste products from the body when the kidneys aren’t able to.


Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order

A medical order that is written by a doctor, instructing health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a patient’s breathing stops or if the patient’s heart stops beating.



Difficulty in swallowing.



Difficulty breathing, especially during exertion or when lying down.


Election of Hospice Benefit

Admission of a patient to hospice through paperwork.



Destruction of the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs that aid in the transfer of oxygen from the air into the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath.


End-of-Life Care

Health care, not only of patients in the final hours or days of their lives, but more broadly care of all those with a terminal illness or terminal condition that has become advanced, progressive and incurable.


End-Stage Disease

The last phase in the course of a disease.


Failure to Thrive

A diagnosis based on weight loss, decreased appetite, poor nutrition, and inactivity.




Bleeding caused by the rupture of a blood vessel.


Home Hospice Care

Hospice services provided in the home, such as nursing and physical therapy (A.K.A. Routine Home Care). Learn more >



A facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill.


Hospice Aide

A healthcare professional who provides personal care within a hospice type of environment.


Hospice Eligibility

Requirements to be eligible to elect hospice care under Medicare (must be entitled to Part A of Medicare and certified as being terminally ill by a physician and having a prognosis of 6 months or less if the disease runs its normal course)


Interdisciplinary Team

Members of a hospice patient’s care team, eg. medical director, nurse, social worker, home health aide, chaplain, volunteers, and grief specialist.


Inpatient Care

The care of patients whose condition requires admission to a hospital.



Refers to a lack of blood flow caused by an obstruction, eg. blood clot.




Life-Limiting Condition

A condition or illness that is progressive or fatal.


Life-Sustaining Treatment

Medical procedures that would only prolong the process of dying or sustain a condition of permanent unconsciousness.


Living Will

A written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent.


Medicare Hospice Benefit

Benefits available to anyone who qualifies for Medicare to receive the hospice benefit if they’re assessed to be in need of hospice services.



State programs that provide health insurance to people who meet the criteria.


Medical Power of Attorney

A directive that designates a person to make decisions about their medical care if they become unable to communicate, sometimes referred to as a durable power of attorney for healthcare.



Cancer that spreads from its organ or tissue of origin to other parts of the body.



Occupational Therapy

Sessions with a therapist regarding activities of daily living—feeding oneself, dressing, toileting, etc. following injury, surgery, or illness.


Palliative Care

This is a type of care focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, and the goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family. Learn more >


Physical Therapy

Sessions intended to allow the patient to regain normal mobility following surgery, disease, or injury and to regain as much independence as possible.


Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A legal form that allows an individual to empower another with decisions regarding his or her healthcare and medical treatment.



A doctor’s opinion about how someone will recover from an illness or injury.


Quality of Life

A person’s outlook on life within the culture and value systems he or she lives in. It includes physical health, psychological state, their current independence and belief system.



A written certificate of life-limiting illness provided by a hospice medical director for each benefit period a patient is on hospice and made possible as long as the patient continues to qualify for service.



The initial meeting between patient, caregiver, and family members with hospice staff to discuss services.



The stage of a chronic disease at which it is marked by a reduction in the intensity or progression of symptoms.


Respite Care

Temporary institutional care of a dependent elderly, ill, or handicapped person, providing relief for their usual caregivers.


Respite Stay

An extended option to provide care for the patient for up to five days and provide a rest period for the caregiver.



A protocol used when a patient′s heart stops beating; it can involve compressions of the chest or electrical stimulation.



A physical or mental feature that is regarded as indicating a condition of disease, particularly such a feature that is apparent to the patient.


Speech-Language Pathologist

A professional that evaluates and treats communication, voice and swallowing disorders, following stroke or result from neurological or other diseases.


Substitute/Surrogate Decision Maker

A person chosen to make medical decisions for an individual when unable to make or communicate decisions for themselves.


Terminally Ill

When someone has a disease that cannot be cured or adequately treated and is reasonably expected to result in the death of the patient within a short period of time.




An appliance for artificial respiration; a respirator.


Veterans Benefits

Advantages or payments that are available to military veterans through the United States government.


Withholding or Withdrawing Treatment

A conscious decision to not initiate life-sustaining measures or stopping them after they have been used for a certain period of time.