Patient Referral

Hospice Terms Glossary

Glossary of Common Hospice Terms

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of hospice care, palliative care or other related services, you may encounter some uncommon hospice terminology that you are unfamiliar with. Our hospice terminology glossary below is a comprehensive list of common terms that may be used by doctors, nurses, hospice aides, or other healthcare professionals in the hospice industry.

This glossary will be updated frequently, but if you don’t see the term you’re looking for below, or you have additional questions, contact us by choosing an option from the blue bar above.


Hospice Terms Glossary:

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ADLs (Activities of Daily Living):

These are the routine life tasks that people do every day. The six basic ADLs are eating, bathing, getting dressed, toileting, transferring and continence. Inability to perform any of these tasks is a consideration for hospice eligibility. Learn more about hospice eligibility criteria here.

Advance Directive:

Also referred to as a living will, an advance directive is a legal document that allows an individual to specify what healthcare actions may be taken if the individual is no longer able to make decisions for his or herself due to illness or incapacity. Learn more about advance directives here.


Aspiration occurs when food particles or fluids are accidentally sucked into the lungs. This can occur at end of life if an individual who has trouble swallowing is asked to eat or drink fluids. Learn more about aspiration here.

Assisted Living Facility:

Assisted living facilities are a housing option for senior adults who may require some assistance, but do not need nursing care or other medical support provided in nursing homes. Learn more about assisted living facilities here.


Atropine drops are used in the hospice setting to reduce excess mucus secretion and saliva production when patients are no longer able to clear their throats themselves. Learn more about atropine here.

Bereavement Coordinator:

Bereavement coordinators, also known as bereavement counselors, provide support to families struggling with grief after the loss of a loved one. Learn more about bereavement coordinators here.


Chaplains are an ordained member of the clergy who provide spiritual support to patients and their families. Learn more about chaplains here.

CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services):

CMS is a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services that administers the Medicare program and partners with state governments to administer the Medicaid program. Learn more about CMS here.

CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation):

CPR is an emergency procedure performed when the heart stops beating. Learn more about CPR here.


Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid medication used to treat inflammation. At end of life, it is used to decrease intracranial pressure, increase appetite, and promote a sense of well-being. Learn more about dexamethasone here.

DNR/AND (do not resuscitate/allow natural death):

A DNR is a legal order to withhold CPR or other life-saving measures in accordance with the patient’s wishes to allow natural death to occur if they stop breathing or their heart stops beating. Learn more about DNR orders here.

Durable Medical Equipment (DME):

Durable Medical Equipment is any medical equipment that provides therapeutic benefits to a patient with a medical condition or illness. DME includes items like hospital beds, wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen, and lifts. Learn more about DME here.


Edema is the abnormal buildup of fluid in the body that often causes swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, arms, hands, or face. Learn more about edema here.

E-Kit (Emergency Symptom Kit):

The E-Kit or comfort care kit is a small quantity of medication that can be used to rapidly treat symptoms that can occur in a patient with a terminal illness. Learn more about what is included in an E-Kit here.

Feeding Tube:

A feeding tube is a device used to supply nutrition to an individual who us having trouble swallowing or drinking. The small plastic tube is inserted through the nose, abdomen or small intestine. Learn more about feeding tubes here.


Sometimes referred to as Haloperidol, Haldol is used to treat delirium and terminal agitation. Learn more about Haldol here.

Healthcare Proxy:

Also known as a durable power of attorney (POA), a healthcare proxy is a legal document that appoints a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are no longer capable of making your own decisions due to illness or incapacity. Learn more about setting up a healthcare proxy here.


Hospice is a philosophy of care that focuses on providing physical, emotional and spiritual support intended to comfort and improve the quality of life of terminally ill patients. Learn more about hospice here.

Hospice Aide:

A hospice aide, sometimes called a CNA or STNA, addresses each patient’s personal care needs including grooming, bathing and feeding. Learn more about the role of hospice aides here.

Hospice Discharge:

When a patient is determined to no longer be eligible for hospice services, the patient may be discharged from hospice, and hospice services will cease. Learn more about hospice discharges here.

Hospice Volunteer:

Hospice volunteers are compassionate members of the community who donate their time and talents to support terminally ill patients. Learn more about hospice volunteers here.

Informed Consent:

In order to have true informed consent, a patient must understand all the risks, benefits and alternative options associated with the care being provided. Learn more about informed consent here.

Interdisciplinary Group (IDG) Meeting+:

The full hospice care team must meet to discuss each patient and review their plan of care every 14 days. Learn more about the members of the interdisciplinary group here.

Lorazepam / Ativan:

Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat anxiety in terminally ill patients and can be used alone or in combination with other medications to treat nausea and vomiting. Learn more about Lorazepam here.

Medical Director:

The hospice medical director is part of the interdisciplinary team and oversees patient care. They assist in establishing goals and adjusting the patient’s plan of care as needed. Learn more about the medical director role here.

Medical Power of Attorney:

A Medical Power of Attorney is the person selected by an individual to make healthcare decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated or no longer able to make decisions on their own. Learn more about Medical Power of Attorney here.

Medicare Benefit:

If a patient meets Medicare hospice eligibility criteria, the cost of their care will be 100% covered by Medicare. Learn more about the Medicare Benefit here.


Methadone is an opioid used for pain relief. It relieves pain without providing the euphoric feelings that lead to addiction. Learn more about methadone here.

Mottled Skin:

When the heart is no longer able to pump blood effectively, blood pressure slows throughout the body. It can cause red or purple marbled appearance in the extremities, which is called mottling. Learn more about mottled skin here.


Palliative care is treatment to manage the pain, symptoms and side effects of chronic illness. Patients may receive palliative care at any stage of their illness and can continue to pursue curative treatment. Learn more about palliative care here.

Patient’s Bill of Rights:

The hospice patient bill of rights is a list of rights guaranteed to patients and their families. Learn more about the patient’s bill of rights here.


Prochlorperazine is used to control nausea and vomiting. Learn more about prochlorperazine here.


An uncomfortable, irritating itch that creates an urge to scratch. Learn more about pruritis here.


After a patient has been receiving hospice care for six months, they must be evaluated for recertification to confirm they still meet hospice eligibility requirements. After the six-month point, recertification is required every 60 days. Learn more about recertification here.

Registered Nurse Case Manager:

The registered nurse case manager provides nursing care to manage a hospice patient’s symptoms. Learn more about the registered nurse case manager role here.

Roxanol / Morphine Sulfate:

In the hospice setting, Roxanol is used to treat severe pain and shortness of breath in terminally ill patients. Learn more about Roxanol here.

Social Worker:
Hospice social workers are trained to evaluate the well being of patients and support their wishes. They help to manage stress and emotional distress and can connect the patient and their family to additional resources in the community. Learn more about the role of hospice social workers here.

Skilled Care:

Skilled nursing care, often provided in a skilled nursing facility or medical rehabilitation center, includes physical, occupational and speech therapy. Patients may not receive the Medicare skilled care benefit and the Medicare hospice benefit simultaneously. Learn more about transitioning from skilled care to hospice care here.

Terminal restlessness:

Terminal restlessness or terminal agitation is a common symptom at end of life that includes extreme agitation, anxiety and confusion. Learn more about terminal restlessness here.

Ventilator Withdrawal:

Ventilator Withdrawal is the process of removing life support from a patient who is no longer able to breathe on their own. Learn more about ventilator withdrawal here.