Patients entering hospice care suffer from a variety of diseases most of which are terminal. Over time, the frequency of certain terminal diagnoses for hospice patients has changed. Initially, when hospice care started, it was designed for cancer patients. However, the hospice diagnosis has more non-cancer patients now.

Since 1998, lung cancer was the most common diagnosis for patients. Later on, in 2006, non-Alzheimer’s dementia became a common diagnosis. Now, there is a notable increase in patients with neurologically-based diagnoses.

4 Primary Diagnoses for Hospice Patients

The NHPCO has presented data revealing the primary diagnosis of hospice patients. According to that data, here are the top 4 hospice diagnoses.


Despite the gradual decline in the number of admissions due to hospice, Cancer still dominates the ranking. Advancement in treatments and early diagnosis and cure has reduced the number of cancer patients worldwide. 

Such cancer patients are admitted to hospice care who are facing a continued decline in health despite of receiving therapy. Certain types of cancers with poor prognosis is also eligible for hospice care.


The second most common diagnosis is hospice is Dementia. End stage Dementia necessitates that the patient receives detailed care since they might not be able to perform the basic functions of life without assistance. They are also susceptible to infections and care is required for managing symptoms.

The patient suffering from Dementia must meet the following characteristics to be eligible for hospice care:

Heart Disease

There has been an increase in the percentage of patients with heart disease. The patient will be taken in hospice if they meet the following criteria:

The patient has been optimally treated for their condition. They are either not eligible for a surgical procedure or they have declined the procedure themselves

The patient has congestive heart failure or Angina and because of physical activity, their discomfort has increased.

Lung Disease

The most common lung disease for patients entering hospice care had been a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Patients with stage 4 COPD have a shorter life expectancy and hence, they are likely to enter hospice care at this time.

Other Common Diseases

Apart from the 4 primary diagnoses, here is a list of other common hospice diagnoses: 

When is Hospice Admission Necessary?

These are some conditions that indicate the patient must be admitted to hospice care as soon as possible:

It’s understood that at some point, it is not possible for a terminal illness to be cured. Other times, the patient might choose not to undergo the treatment because of personal choice. Hospice care is designed for all such situations. Instead of treating the underlying disease of the patient, hospice care attempts to treat the symptoms of the disease and improve the quality of their life.

Hospice care is not just for the patient, it’s for the family of the patient as well. They are provided with all the support needed to get through the painful process of accepting that their loved one is going to leave.

Hospice is an approach to provide the best care. It is not tied to a specific place. The care can be provided in the patient’s home, nursing facility, and hospital or in a hospice center itself.

Hospice care offers a team of specialized individuals such as doctors, social works, nurses, spiritual advisors, and volunteers to provide the best care to the patient. All these professionals work together to provide medical, emotional and spiritual support to the patient and their family. Although the professionals are not available physically 24/7, they pay regular visits and they are available on call 24 hours and 7 days a week. This ensures that all the needs of the patient are addressed optimally.