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Cancer Care at Home: How to Find and Hire a Caregiver, What’s Covered, and How to Pay

Written by Grace Styron
 about the author
14 minute readLast updated March 6, 2023
Reviewed by Vicki DemirozuVicki Demirozu is a 30-year veteran in the home care industry. She worked as a multi-unit operator for Kelly Home Care followed by her tenor as a National Director of Personal Care and Support for Interim HealthCare. She is the founding member of Giving Care with Grace, an educational platform aimed at improving the client and caregiver experience.

Whether it’s a new diagnosis or a long-lived fight, cancer is life-changing — for both the patient and those around them. Friends and family members often find themselves caring for their loved one through cancer treatment and recovery, bringing up an unprecedented range of emotions, questions, and conversations that can be difficult to navigate. But you don’t have to do it alone. In-home caregivers can help by providing specialized training in caring for someone with cancer, personal care, professional guidance, and even some homemaker services. That means your loved one gets the treatment they need, and you get respite.

Key Takeaways

  1. Cancer home care is beneficial for both you and your loved one. While they receive the specialized care and treatment they require, you can enjoy some peace of mind.
  2. Many companies offer either medical or nonmedical in-home care for cancer patients. Services can include skilled nursing, personal care, and homemaker services.
  3. Know what to look for in an in-home caregiver for cancer patients. They should be properly trained, licensed, and have qualities that align with your loved one's values.
  4. Many insurance plans offer at least some coverage for cancer home care services. Benefits vary from plan to plan, so call your loved one's insurer to find out what’s covered and if there will be any fees or copays.

Caring for a loved one at home

Maybe you’ve just begun supporting a loved one following a recent cancer diagnosis, or maybe you’re a vetted informal caregiver. Whatever the case may be, chances are you’re feeling the toll of caregiving. According to the National Cancer Institute, patients and caregivers can influence each other’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. In other words, if your loved one isn’t feeling well, that will have an effect on you.
It’s normal for family caregivers to feel overwhelmed, or even burdened, with all that goes into caring for their loved ones at home — household chores, personal care tasks, managing medical care, and maintaining your regular job. Gaps in care become common in households with informal caregivers who aren’t able to perform certain crucial medical tasks or keep up with their loved one’s personal care all on their own.
If that’s the case, it’s okay to ask for help. There are resources available that may surprise you. Have a conversation with your loved one’s doctor or health care team to determine where you may need some extra support. Gaps in your loved one’s care could include the following:
  • Your loved one’s cancer-specific nursing or medical needs, such as medication management or dressing wounds
  • Your loved one’s daily personal needs, including bathing, grooming, or eating
  • The emotional needs of you and/or your loved one, such as emotional well-being, socialization, and personal support
  • Your own ability to efficiently manage meal preparation, cooking, and household chores like cleaning and running errands

Home care services for someone with a cancer diagnosis

Many companies offer either medical or nonmedical in-home care for cancer patients. These services can help your loved one during recovery from their cancer treatment in their own home, manage their side effects as they undergo treatment, and ultimately become stronger and more independent.
To determine what type of care your loved one would benefit from most, have a conversation with their doctor.

Skilled nursing

Skilled nursing provides high-level home health care delivered by licensed health care professionals, such as registered nurses or licensed practical nurses. A doctor’s prescription is usually required to obtain this level of care.
Home health services may include the following:
  • Skilled nursing
  • Medication administration, including IVs and injections
  • Wound and incision care
  • Assistance with recovery from surgery, injury, and various health conditions
  • Rehabilitative therapies
  • Monitoring of vital signs
  • Pain control
  • Expertise and specialization in certain medical conditions, including various types of cancer

Personal care

Often performed by a home health aide (HHA), personal care focuses on social- and task-related services for people recovering from cancer at home, offering relief to both you and your loved one. However, it’s important to understand that while personal care provides invaluable support at home, it’s strictly nonmedical.
Personal care services can include the following:
  • Recreation and social interaction
  • Quality companionship
  • Enhanced nutrition through meal planning and preparation
  • Medication reminders
  • Transportation and mobility assistance
  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as maintaining hygiene, eating, and using the bathroom

Housekeeping and homemaker services

Chores can stack up quickly when you’re spending your time caring for a loved one either undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment. If your loved one needs help with housework, you can hire someone to take care of tasks including the following:
  • Light cleaning
  • Laundry and linen service
  • Cooking and/or meal preparation
  • Assistance with grocery shopping and errands

Hospice and palliative services

Palliative care refers to specialized medical care for people with a serious illness, such as cancer. If your loved one is on the road to recovery, palliative care can provide them with symptom and pain management, along with further treatment intended to cure their condition. If a cure is not likely, another type of palliative care — hospice care — can provide your loved one comfort and compassion in the remaining months of their life.

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Benefits of in-home care for a cancer patient

A main advantage of in-home care is that it allows patients to remain in the comfort of their own home while receiving the treatment or rehabilitative care they need. It can give your loved one access to new companionship, enhanced nutrition, exercise, activities, and high-quality, specialized cancer care.
Not only is home care beneficial for cancer patients and survivors, but it also offers their family caregivers a chance for respite and relief. Family caregivers often neglect to take time for themselves when they commit to caring for an ill or aging loved one. Maybe you’ve lost some sleep since helping care for your loved one, or maybe you haven’t had the time to rest and unwind. By hiring in-home help, whether it’s medical or nonmedical, you get time back to yourself to spend however you like — all while knowing your loved one is still in safe and caring hands.

Finding and hiring the right in-home caregiver for a cancer patient

The following steps, as illustrated by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, can help you determine who to hire and from what provider:
1. Define what kind of care your loved one needs. For example, if they’ll need help administering medications or managing certain equipment, like oxygen or a catheter, then they’ll need assistance from a home health care provider. If they’re in recovery and just need help with some simple household tasks, nonmedical home care should suffice. Have a conversation with their doctor about what type of home care will best suit their circumstance.
You’ll also want to take into account how much time and energy you’ll have to spend caring for your loved one. Will you be able to take them to doctor’s appointments? Keep up with cooking and cleaning? Help your loved one dress and bathe? Consider what you will want help with, and factor that into your hiring decision.
2. Determine what type of caregiver to hire. You’ll make this decision based on the kind of care you and your loved one have deemed necessary. If your loved one would benefit most from skilled medical care, you’ll likely hire a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). These are types of skilled nurses that can provide basic in-home medical care and treatment, such as medication administration and wound dressing.
If nonmedical care is your support of choice, but your loved one still requires help with their activities of daily living, you’ll likely work with a home health aide (HHA) or personal care aide. Or maybe you simply need assistance with cooking and keeping the house clean. In this case, there are a range of other helpers you can hire through a local home care agency or independently.
Keep in mind that training and certification requirements vary by state, so, if you’re hiring privately, check to be sure the caregiver you hire meets your state’s regulations. If you’re hiring from an agency, these requirements will be checked by the agency.
3. Find a trusted caregiver. Hire someone whose credentials meet state requirements but also whose values, characteristics, and expertise align with your loved one’s needs and circumstance. Look for attributes that you value, such as compassion, exceptional listening skills, or a good sense of humor. Discuss expectations, such as how many hours you’ll need the caregiver to work. But most importantly, make sure the caregiver is knowledgeable and well-trained in caring for the specific type of cancer diagnosis your loved one has received.
You can hire an in-home caregiver through a range of methods. You can search local providers through your state’s department of health and social services, get recommendations from friends, or get a referral from your loved one’s doctor or care team. Remember, you want to hire a caregiver that can fully support your loved one’s needs and preferences, so it’s important to be upfront and honest about what you and your loved one will need assistance with.
Here are some examples of where you can source valuable home care services for your loved one:
  • Home health agencies
  • Personal care agencies
  • Private duty agencies
  • Independent providers
  • Hospices
  • Medical equipment and supply dealers
  • Infusion therapy companies

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How to pay for cancer home care

Talk to your loved one about their insurance coverage, personal funds, and assets, as the exact price of cancer care at home varies greatly. The cost of nonmedical home care ranged between $26 and $27 per hour in 2021, according to Genworth’s most recent Cost of Care Survey. However, if your loved one requires medical care, the cost will likely be quite a bit more because home health care entails a much higher level of training and specialization for the caregiver.
While it’s common to fund at-home cancer care through private pay options, such as personal savings and investments, it’s not feasible for everyone. When it comes to insurance, benefits vary from plan to plan, so it’s important to determine what your loved one’s options are and if they’ll need to expect any copays, deductibles, or other fees.
Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans health benefits, are commonly used to help cover costs related to cancer treatment, services, and recovery. There are also several organizations that help families pay for costs related to cancer care. Find a few examples below.

Resources for travel

Your loved one may have to fly out of state to receive treatment. Air Care Alliance supports volunteer-based charities through a referral system, which connects cancer patients to volunteer pilot organizations that offer free air travel to medical facilities.
If your loved one’s situation doesn’t require air travel, you can still receive transportation assistance. The American Cancer Society’s program Road to Recovery helps cancer patients who cannot drive themselves or who don’t have access to transportation. If there’s a medical appointment coming up, and they need transportation, just schedule a ride with one of their volunteer drivers.

Resources for medications and treatments

Every cancer patient deserves to get the treatment and medication they need without the burden of high out-of-pocket costs. The Assistance Fund provides more than 70 programs that offer financial assistance to cancer patients with high copays, deductibles, and coinsurance. Their programs include assistance for many types of cancer.
For patients with breast cancer, the Komen Treatment Assistance Program can assist in paying for transportation, food, child care, medication, oral pain medication, oral chemotherapy, and anti-nausea medication.
Another nonprofit patient assistance organization is Accessia Health, formerly known as Patient Services Inc. The services Accessia Health provides include assistance with copayments, health insurance premiums, and travel assistance. It also offers ancillary assistance, which can help cover expenses for lab testing, certain medical equipment, office visits, and more.

Resources for food assistance

Costs related to cancer care can add up quickly, and keeping up with regular costs of living like food and groceries can start to feel daunting. If you find your family facing food insecurity, there’s help. Organizations like Meals on Wheels, although not specific to cancer, can help seniors battling cancer meet their nutritional needs by providing meals at little to no cost.
Your family or loved one may also consider looking into the Patient Advocate Foundation. This group provides small grants to cancer patients who meet specific criteria, and it can help cover costs of food and nutrition.

Resources for housing

Your loved one may be opting to receive their care at home right now, but there may still come a time that a hospital stay is necessary. If you find your family in this position, consider looking into organizations like Healthcare Hospital Network or the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. These groups provide housing assistance to cancer patients and their families for either a free or reduced cost to help ease the financial burden of cancer treatment and recovery.
The Sisters Network Inc. can also be a fantastic financial resource if your loved one is a breast cancer survivor. Sisters Network Inc. is the U.S.’s only African American breast cancer survivorship organization. It provides financial assistance for housing, copays, and office visits through their Breast Cancer Assistance Program.

Resources for veterans

For those who qualify, the military offers exclusive organizations to help veterans and their families affected by cancer. Army Emergency Relief (AER), for example, provides zero-interest loans, grants, and education scholarships that can be used to fund travel, lodging, health care, utilities, and more.
Operation Homefront is another national nonprofit that helps families cover costs of rent payments, utility bills, and food, which can be beneficial to military families with a loved one receiving cancer care at home.

Other financial resources

  • CancerCare is intended for people seeking any kind of active cancer treatment. It provides free support services and information on the financial and emotional challenges of cancer. For example, if your senior loved one has been the primary guardian of a child, CancerCare’s financial assistance program can help cover child care. Their oncology social workers can help you find more resources.
  • PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool is a search engine for cancer patients, caregivers, and health care providers. It can be used to find assistance resources and information from biopharmaceutical programs, some of which involve a cost-sharing feature to help reduce out-of-pocket expenses.
  • The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides federally funded aid toward home energy bills and energy crises. LIHEAP wasn’t created specifically for cancer patients or survivors, but it can be an exceptionally useful resource for low-income families.
  • The Healthwell Foundation offers aid to those who are underinsured. It assists with copays, premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses.

Support for family of a loved one who has cancer

Supporting or caring for a loved one who has cancer can be difficult at times. Every family’s situation is different, but consider following the National Cancer Institute’s advice on how to cope with caring for a loved one with cancer:
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s household chores, transportation, or caring for your kids.
  • Prepare for and come to terms with the fact that not everyone you talk to will have the time or be willing to help.
  • Take care of yourself through it all by finding time to relax, staying social, caring for your mind and body, and keeping up with your regular routine as best as you can.
  • Join a cancer care support group, and talk with others about what you’re going through.
  • Keep a journal to help relieve any negative thoughts or feelings.
  • If you can, look for ways to be thankful. See if you can find some kind of meaning in caregiving to help ease the stress.

When is it time to start in-home cancer care?

You don’t have to do this alone. As you care for your aging loved one’s health, it can be difficult to know when it’s time to start seeking extra help. An in-home care provider can be a source of priceless support for you and the person you’re helping care for. Consider reaching out to a Senior Care Advisor for guidance and advice on choosing the right care for your loved one.


  1. American Society of Clinical Oncology. (2020, July 30). How to find a caregiver when you have cancer.

  2. American Cancer Society. (2021, July 30). Who provides home care services?

  3. Genworth. (2022) June 2). Cost of care survey.

  4. National Cancer Institute. (2023, January 12). Support for caregivers of cancer patients.

Meet the Author
Grace Styron

Grace Styron is a writer at OurParents specializing in assistive technology, memory care, and home care. Before writing about healthy aging, she worked for an online women’s lifestyle magazine and as a grant writer for a nonprofit regenerative permaculture farm in Virginia. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University.

Edited byDanny Szlauderbach
Reviewed byVicki Demirozu

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