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On Out Own Terms: Moyers on Dying
Glossary end

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Advance directive
A statement about a person's future wishes about treatment in the event that the individual is unable to make competent decisions at a later date. "Advance directive" often refers specifically to living wills, healthcare proxies, and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders.

A person, often a family member, who is designated to speak with healthcare providers on behalf of a patient. An advocate does not have legal powers, unlike a healthcare proxy.

Feeling the loss of a loved one who has died. Also see "grieving."

A healthcare professional, family member or friend who attends to the needs of a patient.

Chronic suffering
Long-term discomfort which may be psychological, emotional or spiritual as well as physical. Chronic pain leads to chronic suffering.

Complementary therapy
Treatment used in tandem with mainstream medicine. Examples include art therapy, music therapy, massage, and acupuncture.

Comfort care
Also called "palliative care." Treatment whose focus is to improve quality of life through pain management and relief from psychological, emotional and spiritual stress. May be used in tandem with a curative course of treatment.

Culturally competent care
Medical treatment explicitly designed to address and respect different cultural customs and norms.

Critical illness
A disease which may lead to death. Also see "terminal illness."

The identification of a disease from its signs and symptoms. Also see "prognosis."

Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order
A doctor's written instructions not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. The DNR order is attached to a person's medical chart like any other medical order, and may be filed at hospitals, in private practice, with local emergency services, and with companies such as MedicAlert (which provides a bracelet to wear).

Eldercare law
A specialized practice of law that deals with the rights and issues of health, finances, and the well-being of the elderly. Issues which are addressed include social security, nursing home arrangements, pensions, and housing disputes.

End-of-life care
Care of dying people.

Reactions and responses to a loss. These are very individual and can occur on emotional, physical, cognitive, spiritual and behavioral levels.

Grief therapist
A specially trained individual whose area of expertise is dealing with the distress or sorrow of the patient or of the family and friends after someone dies.

The process of feeling distress or sorrow. Also see "bereavement."

Restoration or making better; a broad term that can apply to physical healing as well as healing of relationships and feelings.

Healthcare proxy
Also called "medical power of attorney." An appointed stand-in with the legal authority to make medical decisions. Written form is called "durable power of attorney."

A form of palliative care in which the main focus is on comfort, rather than cure. Generally, people in hospice care have elected to forego curative treatments, and often enroll when they have a life expectancy of less than six months. In the U.S., hospice care often takes place in a patient's home.

Intensive care unit (ICU)
A specialized part of the hospital designed for care of the critically ill whose conditions necessitate constant monitoring.

Involuntary euthanasia
Commonly called "mercy killing." A situation in which someone other than the terminally ill individual makes the decision to kill or permit the death of the individual.

Living will
A legal document stating the preferences of an individual about his or her preferences for future medical treatment in case he or she cannot make competent decisions at a later date.

A joint federal and state program that helps pay medical costs for some people with low incomes and limited resources. Medicaid programs vary by state. People on Medicaid may also get coverage for nursing home care and outpatient prescription drugs that are not covered by Medicare. For more information about Medicaid, go to:

Medical power of attorney
Also called "healthcare proxy." An appointed stand-in with the legal authority to make medical decisions. Written form is called "durable power of attorney."

A federal health insurance program administered by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) for people 65 years or older, certain people with disabilities under 65 years of age, and people with people with end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant). Medicare has two parts: Part A, which is hospital insurance, and Part B, which is medical insurance. For more information about Medicare, go to:

Private health insurance policies that cover some of the costs not covered by the original Medicare plan. Medigap has ten standard plans called Plan "A" through Plan "J," each with a different set of benefits. Medigap policies vary by state. For more information about Medigap in your area, go to:

Cuturally and socially sanctioned ways that individuals convey that they have experienced a loss.

Palliative Care
Also called "comfort care." Its focus is to improve quality of life through pain management and counseling for psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical distress. May include a curative course of treatment.

Physician-assisted suicide (PAS)
A situation in which an individual takes his or her own life utilizing a doctor's prescription for a dosage of medication intended to be lethal. A form of "voluntary euthanasia."

The description of the path a disease is likely to take. Also see "diagnosis."

Respite care
Temporary care given by another in place of the primary caregiver so the primary caregiver can take a break.

Reverse mortgage
A loan against a person's home that requires no monthly payment. May be utilized by people with life-threatening illnesses to offset the possibility of losing their homes while in and out of hospitals or in costly treatment programs.

Spiritual history
An account of a person's beliefs and values. It is a useful reference in determining how to incorporate a person's spiritual values into their medical care.

Terminal illness
A disease which leads to death. Also see "critical illness."

Terminal sedation
The continuous administration of medication which tranquilizes a person to unconsciousness. Used at the end stages of an illness to relieve pain up until death.

Viatical Settlement
The sale of an existing life insurance policy by a terminally ill person to a third party in return for immediate payment of a percentage of the face value of the policy. Often used to permit a person dealing with a life-threatening illness to transform a non-producing asset into immediate cash that can be used to improve the quality of his or her life.

Voluntary euthanasia
The colloquial use of euthanasia conotates bringing on death by artificial means as an ending to suffering. Here adding the word voluntary makes it a decision by the suffering person to choose death, and to have assistence in bringing on death. Unlike physician assisted suicide however, the patient is not acting by his or her own hand. Rather another individual is administering the method of bringing on death. Also see "physician- assisted suicide."

On Our Own Terms - Moyers on DyingThirteen/WNET New YorkPBS Online