Home-health care is appropriate when people with cancer do not need
round-the-clock supervision in a hospital or nursing home but still
need care that could easily be provided by a family member.
Home-health care is possible following hospital discharge or even if
you have never been admitted to a hospital. Health-care professionals
can come to your home to provide you with such services as skilled
nursing care, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy,
social-work services, and nutrition counseling. Home-health aides are
available to assist you with personal care two or three times a week
for one or two hours per visit. There are many advantages to home
care, including remaining in your own comfortable, familiar
environment, being able to continue with normal routines rather than
having to adapt to someone else's routine, and generally being more in
control of your life.
HOW HOME-HEALTH CARE SERVICES CAN HELP
- Physical therapy, to teach you and your family safe ways to move
from the bed to a chair, to show you how to use a walker, and to plan
an exercise program to restore your strength and ability to do
- Speech therapy, to help with communication problems, usually
following surgery for an oral cancer (a laryngectomy, for example).
- Skilled nursing, to help you and your family with nursing
procedures or to teach you how to do them yourself, how to recognize
medical problems that should be reported to your doctor, how to dress
surgical wounds or care for bed sores, to administer chemotherapy,
and, in general, to help you solve problems you or your family may be
having with your care.
- Occupational therapy, to help improve or restore your ability to
do such things as dress yourself or perform household chores or other
activities of daily living so you can live as independently as
- Social work visits for short-term counseling to help you and your
family with problems caused by your illness, or to assist with
financial problems or with nursing-home placement, if that should
- Home-delivered meals provided through a referral to a community
- Home-health-aide services, provided under the supervision of a
nurse or therapist, to help with personal care and simple medical
HOW DO YOU FIND THESE SERVICES?
- Most communities have home-health agencies. Your physician, nurse,
or social worker will know about the different home-health agencies in
your community, as well as your needs. If you choose a home-care
agency on your own, write or call the National Association for Home
Care, 519 "C" Street N.E., Stanton Park, Washington, D.C. 20002
(1-202-547-7424), and ask for a copy of the pamphlet "How To Select a
Home Care Agency." It is available for $1.25. Also available through
the Pennsylvania Association of Home Health Agencies
(1-717-233-3363)is the pamphlet, "A Look at Home Health Care." These
booklets will be useful in helping you make the right choice. It is
available for $.95.
- Payment for home-health care may be covered by Medicare, Medical
Assistance, private insurance, or other payment sources, if the care
you need is skilled (given by people with special training),
intermittent (just for limited periods of time), and if you are
confined to your home. Home-health agencies must follow guidelines
established by Medicare and Medical Assistance when deciding what
types of care will be covered and for what period of time. Insurance
guidelines vary, so the home-health-care agency will check with your
insurance company to see which services are covered.
- Other sources of payment for home services are the Veterans
Administration, Champus, a program covering families of deceased
veterans, and your local Area Agency on Aging. A hospital or
home-health-agency social worker can direct you to these sources.
- If you want home-health care and your doctor has not suggested
it, discuss it with him or her. Home-health care must be prescribed by
- If you are receiving home-health care and want the services of a
home-health aide, discuss your needs with the nurse, rehabilitation
therapist, or social worker at your home-health- care agency. Medicare
and Medical Assistance usually pay for these services, while private
insurance companies and other private sources usually do not.
- Remember that Medicare will pay for occupational therapy, social
work, and home-health- aide services only if you are receiving skilled
nursing care, physical therapy, or speech therapy.
- Services provided by a home-health-care agency are intermittent
(for limited periods of time). If you need home care for long periods
of time, see PRIVATE-DUTY NURSING SERVICES.
- Sometimes you may continue to need home health care after
Medicare, Medical Assistance, private insurance, or other payment
sources stop paying for these services. Ask if the home-health agency
you are considering would continue to provide care for a sliding-scale
fee (based on your income) if you need it after insurance payments
- If you are dissatisfied with the services you are receiving or the
persons providing these services, contact the home-health agency and
ask to speak with the director of patient services or the person who
supervises those coming into your home.
- Home care is not right for everyone. Sometimes the type of care
you need cannot be provided in the home.
- Helping someone take a bath or cook a meal is not considered
"skilled nursing." If your only need is help with bathing or other
personal care services, you may benefit from the services of a
homemaker. Homemaker services are available from the Area Agency on
Aging in your community or county. A homemaker might be assigned to
assist you with a bath or other personal care services during one or
two visits per week, for one to two hours each visit. Services are
available to persons who are at least sixty years old who meet the
eligibility requirements. If you need these services, contact the
office in your community or county. A caseworker from this office will
visit you in your home to assess your needs and determine if you are
eligible. These services are available free or for a small fee. There
may be a waiting list for services, especially in large metropolitan
If you are under sixty or not eligible through your Area Agency on
Aging, homemaker services are available privately. (See the next
section, PRIVATE-DUTY NURSING SERVICES. This
section also lists ideas on how to arrange for help if you are unable
to pay for services privately.)
- You may sometimes feel lonely and isolated from others, especially
if your illness requires you to remain homebound, even on a short-term
basis. This can be particularly true for persons whose family members
or friends are working or are unavailable to them for other reasons.
If this is the case, discuss this with your nurse or social worker.
Some communities or churches sponsor friendly visitor programs where a
volunteer may visit and provide companionship and conversation.
Frequently Asked Questions
National Cancer Institute