Lexicon of Terms related to the Integrated Palliative Approach to Care


Like all health care practices, hospice palliative care has its own language and terminology. This lexicon of terms is designed to help those interested in implementing the integrated palliative approach to care develop a common language and understanding.

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For citation: Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, Lexicon, The Way Forward Initiative: An Integrated Palliative Approach to care, 2014.


Absence of wellness due to disease, other conditions, or aging.

  • An acute illness is one that is recent in onset and likely to be time-limited. If severe, it could be life threatening.
  • A chronic illness is likely to persist for months to years. If it progresses, it may become life threatening.
  • An advanced illness is likely to be progressive and life threatening.
  • A life-limiting illness is one that affects health and quality of life, and can lead to death in the near future.
  • A life-threatening illness is one that is likely to cause death in the immediate future.

Integrated palliative approach to care/community-integrated palliative care

Care that focuses on meeting a person’s and family’s full range of needs – physical, psychosocial and spiritual – at all stages of a chronic progressive illness. It reinforces the person’s autonomy and right to be actively involved in his or her own care – and strives to give individuals and families a greater sense of control. It sees palliative care as less of a discrete service offered to dying persons when treatment is no longer effective and more of an approach to care that can enhance their quality of life throughout the course of their illness or the process of aging. It provides key aspects of palliative care at appropriate times during the person’s illness, focusing particularly on open and sensitive communication about the person’s prognosis and illness, advance care planning, psychosocial and spiritual support and pain/symptom management. As the person’s illness progresses, it includes regular opportunities to review the person’s goals and plan of care and referrals, if required, to expert palliative care services.

Interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary or interprofessional team

Caregivers with different training and skills who work together to develop a team and implement a person’s plan of care. Membership varies depending on the services required to address the person’s and family’s identified issues, expectations, needs and opportunities. An interdisciplinary team typically includes one or more physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, spiritual advisors, pharmacists, personal support workers, and volunteers. Other disciplines may be part of the team if resources permit.