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Managing Cancer Care

What Are Home Care Services?

Home care services are provided in your home to help you deal with an illness or injury. These services can help you recover from cancer treatment, better manage your side effects as you go through treatment, and become stronger and able to be more independent.

“Home care” can mean different things and can refer to different types of care that might be available in your area. When looking into home care, it is important to understand some key terms.

  • Home health care focuses on skilled care or services that are provided by licensed health care professionals. It might include nursing visits and care or different types of therapy, such as physical or occupational therapy.
  • Personal care services provided in your home focus on helping you with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, or running errands, or housekeeping.
  • Hospice care is provided to people whose treatment can no longer cure or control their disease. People getting hospice care might have both home health care and personal care services.

 If you need home care, your health care team will work with you to figure out what type of care is best. Sometimes this depends on your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid coverage. You can choose a home care provider from a list and then work with your health care team and the home care provider to set up your care plan. The care plan should include the services you need, the type of staff best suited to provide those services, how often the services are needed and whether you need special equipment at home. Payment for the care services, including any out-of-pocket costs, should be talked about ahead of time so you know what to expect.

Types of home health care services

Home health nurse

Depending on the type of care needed, a home health nurse may be a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). A registered nurse comes to the home, looks at the needs you and your family have, and sets up a care plan along with the doctor. Services offered might include wound care, ostomy care, giving intravenous (IV) treatments, giving and monitoring medicines, and watching for side effects. Your care plan may also include supportive care, like helping you manage pain or other symptoms, as well as emotional support and teaching self care. The needs of both the patient and the family are included in the care plan.

Physical therapy

A physical therapist (PT) can help you learn exercises to strengthen or 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 (OT) can help you with problems that keep you from being able to fully perform your daily activities. They will look at what you can do, then teach you new ways to do daily tasks to make them easier, like preparing food, eating, bathing, dressing, and doing other household routines. If you need special equipment, you’ll be taught to use it.

Speech therapy

If you can’t talk the way you used to, a speech therapist can help you communicate 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 people with cancer. For people with complex needs, they can help find sources of support in the community. This can include helping the family look for financial help as needed. Social workers also help people learn to cope with the demands of illness, family conflicts, and grief. 

Respiratory therapy 

For people with breathing problems or lung diseases, respiratory therapists can help you manage your symptoms. They can also teach you how to set up and safely use oxygen and other equipment.

Types of personal care services 

Home health aides or home care aides

A home health or home care aide can help with personal care, such as getting in and out of bed, walking, bathing, and dressing. Some agencies that offer personal care services can provide aides that also help remind you to take your medicines, do light housekeeping, and run errands. Some aides have had special training and are qualified to give more complex services if they are 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 with housekeeping rather than give any personal or health care. Some agencies offer both personal care and homemaker services.


A volunteer who can sit with you, give emotional support, and help with personal care, paperwork, and getting to and from doctor visits might be available from a community organization, a church or faith-based organization, a home care agency, or hospice.

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.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Hiring Home Care Services.  Accessed at on July 13, 2021.

National Association for Home Care & Hospice. How Do I Select the Right Home Care Provider? Accessed at on July 9, 2021. 

Nightingale Homecare. Understanding Home Health Care and Private Duty Services. Accessed at on July 20, 2021.

US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. More About Home Health Care. Accessed at on July 20, 2021. 

Last Revised: July 30, 2021

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