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Senior Resource Glossary of Hospice Terms

hospice word

Hospice care is medical support for those who are nearing the end of life. Patients whose life expectancy is 6 months or less begin treatment that is focused on comfort and symptom management. Care is provided with a goal of quality over quantity.


Let’s learn all the common phrases and definitions associated with hospice care.

Types of Hospice Care

Routine Home Care – Care that is provided wherever a patient lives by a team of nurses and other aides when a patient is not in a current state of medical crisis. The care team makes frequent home visits to administer custodial and medical services. Routine home care may include skilled nursing, on-call health professionals, therapeutic care, pain management, medication, and medical supplies.


Continuous Home Care – Care that is necessary when a patient needs a nurse for longer than 8 hours a day in addition to other routine home care services. It is usually provided when a patient is experiencing severe symptoms including trouble breathing, constant vomiting, or pain that has become hard to manage or unmanageable.

General Inpatient Care – Care that is recommended when symptoms become too severe to manage at home. It is usually intended for short-term support. The goal is to get the patient back in the comfort of their own home as soon as possible.

Respite Care – Care for patients who receive most of their hospice care from family members. Respite care is when a person is allowed a short-term inpatient stay at a hospital or other facility for the sole purpose of giving their primary caregiver a break. After a period (usually about a week) the patient returns home.

Terms To Know

ADL – Activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, personal hygiene, and toileting.


Advance Directive – a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment. It often includes a living will.

Alzheimer’s – A progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and the ability to perform tasks

Ambulatory – This term relates to the ability to walk or move. When used in reference to care (ambulatory care), it usually means outpatient.

Custodial Care – Non-medical or personal care.

Dementia – A chronic memory disorder that affects memory and thinking. Personality changes and impaired reasoning are common.


IADL – Instrumental activities of daily living. Much like ADLs, but those that require more complex thinking, such as managing one’s own medication.

Memory Care – Refers to medical or personal care specifically for those who have conditions that affect their memory, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Feeding Tube – A tube that is inserted through the nose, down the throat, and into the stomach for administering liquids and liquid food.

Healthcare Proxy – Durable power of attorney (POA). A legal document that appoints an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make your own decisions due to incapacity.

Medical Power of Attorney -A legal document that names one person the health care agent of another person. 

Nursing Service – Healthcare provided by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Palliative Care – Medical care for those living with a serious illness. Care that provides relief from the symptoms and improves the quality of life.

Skilled Care – Care that can only be administered by a licensed medical professional. Skilled care can include therapy, medication, wound care, and other services provided by nurses and doctors.


Related: Best Ways To Pay For Home Care Services

Caregivers & Other Professionals

Bereavement Coordinator – A professional who works with and provides support to families who have lost a loved one in hospice care.

Chaplain – A religious professional who listens to and provides spiritual support for patients and their families.

Caregiver – Anyone who regularly looks after and provides assistance to a person who is sick, elderly, or disabled.

Companion – A broad term used to describe friendship, support, and assistance from either a service or a loved one.

Family Caregiver – A spouse, relative, friend, or neighbor who provides assistance and support for either a short-term or long-term.

Health Aide – A licensed medical professional that cares for a patient in their home

Home Care Aide – A professional who provides in-home custodial care such as help with activities of daily living (ADL).


Hospice Aide – A professional trained to provide personal care assistance, home care, and other duties during hospice care at home.

Hospice Social Worker – Social workers who are trained to evaluate the well-being of patients and support their wishes.

PCA – Personal care assistant. A professional who provides non-medical care such as assisting with activities of daily living.

Professional Caregiver – A person whose career is based on providing assistance, care, or support. They can be nurses, physical therapists, personal care assistants, and many more.

Skilled Nurse – A licensed nurse that can provide skilled nursing care.

Find hospice care near me.

Originally published May 11, 2022


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