What home care services are available for cancer patients?

Through a home care agency, you can get many of the same care and services as in a hospital. A doctor will work with your home health care providers to set up your plan of care. This plan includes the services you need, the type of staff best suited to provide those services, and how often the services are needed.

Nursing care

A highly skilled registered nurse (RN) can be very helpful to a cancer patient at home and can help relieve the burden on family members. A nurse comes to the home, looks at the care needs you and your family have, and sets up a plan of care along with the doctor. Services may include the care of wounds, ostomy care, giving intravenous (IV) treatments, giving and supervising medicines, and watching for side effects. Your care plan may also include giving supportive care, like pain control, as well as instruction and emotional support. The needs of both the patient and the family are covered.

Physical therapy

Physical therapists can help you to regain the use of impaired or weakened muscles. They also work with you to improve the range of motion in joints and learn to use any equipment needed for daily activities.

Occupational therapy

An occupational therapist can help you with problems that keep you from doing your daily activities. An occupational therapist will look at what you can do, and then teach you ways to do daily tasks, like eating, bathing, dressing, and household routines. If you need special equipment, you’ll be taught to use it. With the therapist’s help, you can learn to do more on your own.

Speech therapy

If you can’t talk the way you used to, a speech therapist can help you communicate again by teaching special techniques and helping you practice. They may also help if you have problems swallowing.

Social workers

Social workers look at social and emotional factors that affect patients. They serve as case managers for patients with complex needs and help find sources of help in the community. This can include helping the family look for financial help if needed. They also counsel patients on coping with the demands of illness, family conflicts, and grief, all of which can affect the patient’s care.

Home health aides/home care aides

With the help of an aide, you can better handle personal care, such as getting in and out of bed, walking, bathing, and dressing. Some aides have had special training and are qualified to give more complex services if supervised by a registered nurse.

Homemaker/attendant care

A homemaker can do light household tasks for you, like laundry, meals, housekeeping, and shopping. These services are done to help maintain your house rather than give health care. Some agencies assign a home health aide for these tasks along with health services.


A volunteer from a community organization, a home care agency, or hospice can sit with you, give emotional support, and help with personal care, paperwork, and getting to and from doctor visits.


Home care services may also include some of these:

  • Nutrition support and help with diet
  • Medical equipment and supplies
  • Lab and x-ray studies
  • Pharmacy services
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Transportation
  • Home-delivered meals
  • Problem-solving or other help by phone
  • Dentists, clergy, specialist doctors, and other health professionals
  • Emergency alert or safety monitoring systems

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Administration on Aging. Eldercare Locator. Home Health Care. 10/15/2015. Accessed at www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Resources/Factsheets/Home_Health_Care.aspx on April 18, 2016.

National Association for Home Care & Hospice. How Do I Select the Right Home Care Provider? Accessed at www.nahc.org/consumer-information/right-home-care-provider/ on April 15, 2016.

Last Medical Review: April 19, 2016 Last Revised: May 13, 2016

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