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What Is the Primary Hospice Diagnosis In 2020?

Hospice care services maximize the quality of life of your loved one during their last days. The organizations provide compassionate, high-quality care to patients and their families. Patient numbers under hospice facilities care are on the rise. The number grew from 513,000 to nearly 1.4 million in 2015. The data is helpful to healthcare professionals as the practitioners look for the necessary resources to handle any diagnosis, from the most common to the most challenging.

Primary Diagnoses Among Hospice Patients

When hospice services began around the 1970s, facilities were mostly made up of cancer patients. By 1998, lung cancer was the most common diagnosis. Later on, in 2006, non-Alzheimer dementia became a regular within hospice care. The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in patients with neurological-based diagnoses such as Advanced End-Stage Senescence.


Recent advancements in technology and treatment protocols lead to reduced cases of cancer in North America. However, cancer remains the top hospice diagnosis, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).

Cancer patients admitted to facilities may have metastatic cancer, or continue to face a decline in health despite the therapy. Your loved one may also electively decide to forgo treatment. Certain types of malignancies with poor prognoses such as small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and primary CNS malignancy are also directly eligible for hospice care.


End-stage dementia is the second most common diagnosis in hospice services. Your loved one may not perform essential functions of life and requires assistance. The patient is also at a higher risk of contracting other infections, and the symptoms need to be managed.

The code for hospice eligibility states that the patient must meet the following criteria:

  • Stage-7 level dementia.
  • Inability to dress, bathe, use the bathroom, and ambulate without assistance.
  • Decreased cognitive function with a lack of meaningful communication.

Heart Disease

Changing lifestyle choices have been linked to an increase in patients with heart diseases. For your loved one to be considered for hospice care, they may be suffering from congestive heart failure that leads to breathing discomfort and cardiopulmonary disease.

Besides, the patient may have exhausted all possible treatment protocols and are not eligible for surgical procedures. They may also willingly decline any treatment procedures. Increased discomfort due to Angina may also lead to admission.

Lung Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most prevalent cause of lung disease. The government estimates over 24 million U.S. adults have a diagnosis of COPD. COPD results in over 7 million ER visits each year.

Patients with stage 4 COPD are likely to enter hospice care at this period due to shorter life expectancy. Prior to hospitalization and decrease functional capacities may also play a role in determining when to admit the patient. If your loved one suffers from unintentional, aggravated weight loss, and reduce response to bronchodilators, they may also be considered.

Other Common Hospice Diagnoses

The NHPCO also ranks other care patients who frequently get admission into hospice facilities. The codes outlined by Medicare and Medicaid are followed. Some of these terminal complications include:

  • HIV
  • Advanced End-Stage Senescence
  • Liver disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Stroke and Coma
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Cerebral Vascular Accident
  • Non-specific terminal illness

Eligibility for Hospice Diagnosis and Care

To access hospice care, patients must meet specific criteria established by the U.S Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These requirements provide guidelines that can help determine if your love one’s condition is, or soon will be appropriate for hospice treatment.

The requirements include:

  1. A patient diagnosed with a life-limiting condition with a prognosis of six months or less if the disease runs its normal course.
  2. Frequent hospitalization over the last six months with no significant improvement.
  3. Progressive unintended weight loss.
  4. A decrease in cognitive abilities.
  5. Skin breakdown.
  6. Recurrent infections leading to a specific decline in condition.
  7. Compromised activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting.

It is with extreme pain that you understand at some point that it may not be possible to cure your loved one’s terminal illness. Hospice diagnosis allows for medical, emotional, and spiritual support during this painful process of accepting that your loved one is going to leave.

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