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Managing Cancer Care

Who Provides Home Care Services?

Many companies offer home care services, including:

  • Home health agencies
  • Hospices
  • Personal care agencies or home care aide and homemaker agencies
  • Medical equipment companies
  • Government agencies
  • Private duty agencies
  • Independent providers

What to look for and ask about

When looking at home care services, it’s best to find out what type of care they provide and what experience they have with situations like yours. It’s also important to find out what your insurance will cover and what your out-of-pocket costs will be. If you choose to self-pay for some of the services, you should also check to see whether the caregiving staff is employed by the home care company (as opposed to being an independent contractor). If you hire an independent contractor, you would be considered the employer and may have to pay payroll taxes, Social Security, and unemployment insurance. You must also check to make sure the caregiver is “bonded and insured” which means they carry liability insurance and are covered for things like theft and property damage. It’s also a good idea to get references from independent contractors, and even from an agency if you wish to do so.

Home health agencies

Services by health care professionals are usually provided by home health agencies. Many hospitals have home health agencies within their network, but you have the right to choose one that best fits your needs.

Some agencies limit their services to nursing and 1 or 2 other specialties. If care is needed from more than one specialist, the home health agency will set up a team to provide care that covers your needs. Other agencies offer a wide range of home care services through nurses, therapists, social workers, homemakers and home care aides, medical equipment and supply dealers, and volunteers.

Because home health agencies hire and supervise their personnel, they assume liability for care given. Home care services are usually available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, though most home health services are given during the day if possible.

Hospice care

This type of care uses a core team of skilled experts and volunteers who provide medical, psychological, and spiritual care to people with advanced, serious illnesses when treatment is no longer effective and a cure is no longer possible. You can find more information about these services in Hospice Care.

Infusion therapy companies

These companies provide medicines, equipment, and nursing services to people who need intravenous (IV) fluids, nutrition, or treatments at home. They also give special feedings through tubes that are put in the stomach or intestine (tube feedings). Nurses may teach patients and family members to give these medicines, fluids, or feedings at home. They also provide support to make sure everything is working well and help deal with problems.

Durable medical equipment and supply dealers

These companies provide products ranging from oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, and walkers, to catheter and wound-care supplies. They deliver these products, set them up, and teach patients and caregivers how to use them. Most of these companies do not give physical care to patients. But some may provide nurses to give medicine and tube feedings to patients and teach the patient and family the proper way to give these on their own. Some offer respiratory therapy services to help patients use breathing equipment.

Home care aide and homemaker agencies

These agencies provide workers to help patients bathe, dress, and get around. They may also help prepare meals and keep the house tidy. Others may be “sitters” who stay with patients who can’t be left alone for medical or safety reasons. This is sometimes called companion care. Some states require that these agencies be licensed and meet certain standards of care.

Private-duty agencies

Private-duty agencies provide nursing, homemaker, home care aide, and companion services. In most cases, these agencies are not licensed or regulated by the government. Staffing registries often serve as employment agencies for home care nurses and aides. They match the provider with the patient and collect a finder’s fee. The patient or family is then considered the employer.

Independent providers

These are nurses, therapists, aides, homemakers, and companions who are privately employed by the people who need their services. The patient or family must recruit , hire, and supervise these providers. The patient or family pays them directly, and may also be responsible for payroll, Social Security, and unemployment insurance.

    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 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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