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Glossary

End-of-Life Terms

Advance Directive:

A written tool used to guide health care decisions when an individual is unable to do so because of incapacity. Advance Directive is a general term that describes two kinds of documents, living wills and medical powers of attorney. These documents give instructions about future medical care and appoint a person to make healthcare decisions if you are unable to make them yourself.

Artificial nutrition and hydration:

IV (inter venous = needle in the vein) fluids, a tube (nasal gastric) in the throat which goes down into the stomach or a tube (gastric tube) surgically placed directly into the stomach or IV nutrition.

Bereavement:

The period of time, usually occurring within the first year after the loss, during which a person or group of people experiences, responds emotionally to, and adjusts to the loss by death of another person.

Capacity:

In the healthcare context, the ability of a patient to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of healthcare decisions and to make informed choices. The term "competent" is also used to indicate ability to make informed decisions.

Code Status:

A term used by medical professionals to describe what should be done if a patient's heart stops or a patient stops breathing.

CPR:

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. A group of treatments, any or all of which are given to support or restore breathing and circulation if the heart or lungs stop working.

Curative Care:

Care designed to cure a disease or condition.

Full Code:

A term that means the patient will receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Grief:

The response to loss that often occurs in stages of varying length. Stages are differentiated by changes in feeling, thought and behavior.

Hospice:

A philosophy of care for the terminally ill. Care is focused on comfort and the relief of symptoms. Hospice includes support for the patient's family while the person is dying and bereavement support.

Hospice Care:

The care given to the terminally ill and their families which occurs in a home or in a health facility and which includes medical, palliative, psychosocial, spiritual, bereavement and supportive care and treatment. 

Medical Power of Attorney:

A document that allows an individual to appoint someone else to make decisions about their medical care if they are unable to communicate. It may also be called "health care proxy."

No Code, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order:

An order that instructs the medical team to not resuscitate the patient if either the heart stops beating or the individual stops breathing.

Palliative Care:

The active and total care of someone whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment, control of pain, other symptoms, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems is paramount. The goal of palliative care is to achieve the best possible quality of life for patients and their families. May also be referred to as "comfort care."

Palliative Medicine:

The study and management of patients with active, progressive and far-advanced disease for whom the prognosis is limited and the focus of care is quality of life.

Palliative Treatment:

Treatment and comfort measures directed toward relief of symptoms, and pain management rather than treatment to cure.

POLST Form:

The POLST form documents a "Physician's Order for Life Sustaining Treatment." The POLST form is a "physician's order", not an "advance directive." The POLST form is a way to translate living wills or oral advance directives into physician orders that must be followed by emergency personnel and healthcare providers working within a licensed healthcare facility.

Power of Attorney:

A legal document in which one person gives another the authority to make specific financial decisions. Unless specifically written to do so, it does not cover health care decisions.

Prognosis:

The doctor's best judgment about the outcome of a patient's disease or condition.

Spiritual:

The patient's and families' beliefs and practices as they relate to the meaning of their life, death, and their connectedness to humanity which may or may not be of a religious nature.

Terminal Illness:

A state of disease characterized by a progressive deterioration with impairment of function which without aggressive intervention, survival is anticipated to be six months or less.

Will:

A legal document written to have control over what happens to one's property and assets when one dies. It does not involve health care decisions. 

Related Resources

PDFicon.png Tool Kit for Advance Health Care Planning

A variety of self-help worksheets, suggestions, and resources to help with the end-of-life process. 

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