Here are some key terms and phrases you will encounter in this website, and their definitions. Terms are presented in alphabetical order and are defined as we understand and use them in the Irish Hospice Foundation.

  • Bereavement care – Support, information and services available to bereaved people through their families,  friends, communities, workplaces, healthcare providers and education systems, regardless of the circumstances of their loss.
  • End-of-life care / Care at end of life – We use these terms to refer to all aspects of the care relating to dying, death and bereavement which is provided towards the end of life. In this context, ‘end of life’ can be from the point of a receiving a life-limiting diagnosis through the months before death, up to and  including the final hours – a continuum rather than a point in time. We use  ‘end-of-life care’ to refer to the care of people with advanced life-limiting conditions, for whom death within 1-2 years is likely, as well as those in the terminal phase of illness. It also encompasses care of the bodily remains of the deceased person.
  • Generalist palliative care – Care provided by a service which has another medical speciality at its core, but which includes the practice of palliative care principles, with a focus on quality of life.
  • Hospice  – The word ‘hospice’ refers to a whole philosophy or approach to the care of people with life-limiting illness. It also refers to a building or care institution where hospice professionals and volunteers provide holistic care to such people and their families.
  • Hospice care –  Hospice care aims to improve the lives of people whose illness is no longer curable. It strives to help people to live as fully as possible to the end and provides support to families. It also extends into bereavement care.  Hospice care can be provided in a hospice, at home, in a hospital or in a nursing home.  See also Palliative Care.
  • Hospice philosophy / approach – The hospice philosophy or approach takes as its starting point that death is a natural part of life. It aims to make sure that:People are treated with dignity and respect, People are treated as individuals, The physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being of the patient are given equal emphasis, Family members and those important to the patient are included in the care approach
  • Life-limiting illness / condition – A condition or illness from which there is no reasonable hope of cure and from which a person is expected to die.
  • Palliative care – Palliative care is another term for the type of care provided to people with life-limiting conditions by hospices and in other care settings. It is the term most commonly used by people working in medical or healthcare settings. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines palliative care as ‘Improving the quality of life of patients with life-threatening illness through the prevention and relief of suffering by identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.’ 

  • Paediatric palliative care – Palliative care for children, which, although based on the same principles as adult palliative care, provides specific care appropriate to children with life-limiting conditions and their families.

The World Health Organisation defines paediatric palliative care as ‘the active total care of the child’s body, mind and spirit [which] also involves giving support to the family. It begins when illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease. Health providers must evaluate and alleviate a child’s physical, psychological, and social distress. Effective palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited. It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centres and even in children’s homes’.

  • Specialist palliative care  – Care provided by a service which has palliative care as its core specialty.  It generally involves a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals working under the direction of a Consultant Physician in Palliative Medicine.
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