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Palliative Care Pocket Dictionary

To round out our look at the benefits of palliative care, here is a list of some of the terms you might run into while researching this specialty:

  • Adjuvant therapy.  This refers to a treatment used with a drug or medication to aid its effect.
  • Advance directive. Written or verbal instructions for your care, to be used in the event you are unable to make  those decisions.
  • CPR.  Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a procedure used when a patient‘s heart fails, involving chest compressions or electrical stimulation.
  • Consulting physician.  This is a doctor with special experience or training who is called in to assist the primary attending doctor.  Will be used in situations requiring specialized care.
  • Coordination of care.  An approach to patient care in which all members of the medical team working with that patient join together to plan and organize the patient’s care in the hospital or medical facility and, ultimately, upon discharge.
  • DNR Order.  Do Not Resuscitate Order.  This is a signed physician’s order not to attempt CPR should a patient’s breathing or heart stop.  There are separate versions for hospital and home.  Written at the request of the patient or family: must be signed to be valid.
  • Durable power of attorney for health care.  This document designates the person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so yourself.
  • Healthcare proxy.  A document similar to a durable power of attorney for health care: it designates the person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf should  you be unable to make them yourself.
  • Home care. Services provided in the home, including nursing care and physical therapy.
  • Hydration. Providing water or fluid by mouth, tube or intravenously.
  • Intubation. Inserting a tube into a patient’s lungs to aid breathing.
  • Life-prolonging treatment. Medical treatments aimed at curing or remedying an illness.
  • Living will.  A document detailing a patient’s wishes and instructions regarding medical treatments.
  • Long-term care. Provided in nursing homes, in the community, or at home, care that supports a patient with chronic conditions and impairments for an indefinite period of time.
  • NSAIDs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  A class of pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Opioids.  A class of pain medications that have some opiate narcotic properties, but are not derived from opium.
  • Palliate.  To relieve and ease the symptoms of an illness, disease or disorder.
  • Palliative care.  The goal of this medical specialty is to improve the quality of a patient’s life, focusing on relieving the pain, discomfort and stress chronic or serious illness entails.  Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of illness and can be provided at the same time as curative treatment.
  • PEG. Percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy.  This is a surgical procedure during which a tube is inserted into the stomach to provide hydration and nutrition.
  • Primary attending physician.  A patient’s main doctor.  This doctor will coordinate care and referrals to specialists.
  • Resuscitation.  A protocol used in the event a patient’s heart stops beating.  Similar to CPR, it also can involve chest compressions or electrical stimulation.
  • Subacute care.  This is short-term care in a nursing home or similar facility, most often for physical therapy.
  • Symptom.  A feeling a patient has that points to a disease or disorder.
  • Ventilator.  This is the machine that breathes for a patient if he or she cannot do so on his or her own.
For more information about palliative care, check out this link: GPC.org.  You might also ask your regular doctor about the options available in your community. 
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