Our glossary explains some of the medical and legal terms used in palliative care. Glossary words are underlined in the Topics and Asked and Answered sections, with definitions appearing when you hover on a word.


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A pain reliever and fever reducer often used to treat mild to moderate pain. Acetaminophen can be combined with other pain medications to add to their effectiveness. Available without a prescription. Also known as Tylenol®.


An overwhelming, uncontrollable urge to use medications, alcohol or other substances without any medical need for it. People with addiction continue to seek and use medication compulsively, even in the face of negative health and social consequences.

Advance care directive

A document that outlines treatment decisions a patient wants made if he or she is unable to communicate or make decisions in the future.  See Advance care plan.

Advance care plan

A document that outlines treatment decisions a patient wants made if he or she is unable to communicate or make decisions in the future.  It has different names in different parts of Canada. For a full list, see the article Advance Care Planning Across Canada.

Advance care planning

The process of thinking about and discussing personal values and health care options, and communicating those thoughts and wishes to your health care team and people important to you. It also involves choosing someone to speak for you if you become unable to speak for yourself. The result of the process is a document called an advance care plan.


A type of medication used to relieve pain.


A persistent lack of appetite (having no desire to eat). Things that can affect a person’s appetite: illness, medication, medical treatments, pain, constipation or bowel obstruction, mouth sores, and anxiety or depression.


A type of medication used to relieve acid indigestion, heartburn, gas and sour stomach. Available without a prescription.


A type of medication used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Requires a prescription.

Anticipatory grief

Grieving a future loss. A common emotional response.

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