Terms to Know

Palliative care has a lot of uncommon terms used to describe various services. We hope this list will empower you to make decisions and ask questions about your or your loved one's care. 

adjuvant therapy

A treatment used with a medication to aid its effect.

advance directive

Written or verbal instructions for your care if you are unable to make decisions.

cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

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

consulting physician

A doctor with special training or experience who is called in to assist the primary attending physician in matters that need more specialized care.

coordination of care

An approach in which all members of the medical team work together to plan for a patient′s care in the hospital and for discharge.

do not resuscitate (DNR) order

A physician's order not to attempt CPR if a patient′s heart or breathing stops. The order is written at the request of the patient or family, but it must be signed by a physician to be valid. There are separate versions for home and hospital.

durable power of attorney for healthcare

A document that designates the person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable.

healthcare proxy

Similar to a durable power of attorney for healthcare, this is a document that designates the person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable.

home care

Services provided in the home, such as nursing and physical therapy.


Considered a model of quality care, hospice focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting patients with a life expectancy of months, not years. Hospice involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support. The emphasis is on caring, not curing. In most cases hospice care is provided to a patient in his or her own home. It also can be provided in freestanding hospice facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.


The process of providing water or fluid by mouth, tube, or intravenously.


The process of inserting a tube into a patient′s lungs to help with breathing.

life-prolonging treatment

Medical treatments that aim to cure or remedy an illness.

living will

A document stating a patient′s wishes regarding medical treatments.

long-term care

Care that supports patients with chronic impairment for an indefinite period of time; it is provided in nursing facilities, at home or in the community.

nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

A class of pain medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin.


A class of pain medications that have some opiate narcotic properties but are not derived from opium.


To relieve the symptoms of a disease or disorder.

palliative care

The medical specialty focused on relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life. Palliative care is appropriate at any point in an illness and can be provided at the same time as curative treatment.

percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG)

A surgical procedure for inserting a tube into the stomach to provide nutrition and hydration.

primary attending physician

A patient′s main doctor, who coordinates all referrals to specialists.


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

subacute care

Short-term care in a nursing facility, usually for physical therapy.


A feeling a patient has that indicates a disorder or disease.


A machine that breathes for a patient when he or she is unable to do so independently.