Private-Duty Nursing Services

The preceding section, "Home-Health Care," discussed intermittent or time limited services provided by home-health agencies. If you need someone to provide care for long periods of time on an ongoing basis, you may require private-duty nursing services. Some people need a nurse only for a few hours a day, while others need 24-hour care. Most private-duty nursing services have registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, home-health aides, and homemakers available to provide care in the home. There is an established fee for this service with prices varying, depending on whether the care requires the skills of a registered nurse or practical nurse, home-health aide or homemaker. Some private insurance companies will pay all or part of the costs of private-duty nursing services.


  1. Provide care after surgery by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN).

  2. Offer help with bathing and personal care by a home-health aide.

  3. Provide shopping, cooking, and general assistance by a homemaker.


  1. The best way to get private-duty home-care services is to ask your doctor, nurse, or the social worker at your home-health agency or hospital if they could recommend a private home-care agency. Or look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book under "Nurses" or "Home Health Services."

  2. To obtain private insurance coverage, your doctor must state in writing that you need this type of care.

  3. Private home-care services are available from home-health agencies and other private nursing agencies.

  4. Your American Cancer Society may also provide information about these services.


  • Before choosing a particular agency, it is best to check with several private nursing services to compare prices and services.

  • Ask the home-care service how the people providing care have been educated and how they will be supervised, particularly for a homemaker or home-health aide. You should also ask if employees are bonded.

  • If you have insurance that may cover the costs, ask the private-duty nursing service if it can contact your insurance company concerning payment, and if it could bill the insurance company directly.

  • Remember that neither Medical Assistance nor Medicare will pay for private-duty nursing services.

  • The pamphlet "How to Select a Home Care Agency" will be useful in choosing private- duty nursing services (see page 52).

  • Some people with cancer need a non-skilled person to stay with them for part of each day or even 24 hours a day, but they cannot afford to pay the rates charged for private-duty nursing services. In this instance, there are several options to consider.

    • It is sometimes less expensive to hire a person to stay with you for a few hours each day. That person could be someone you know, such as a relative, neighbor, or friend, or it could be someone you locate through advertising. Be sure to ask for several references and check each reference before you hire. Make sure the person you employ understands exactly what you will expect. It would be helpful if you had a specific list of tasks to be performed.

    • Organize family members to stay with you in "shifts." It is best to start with a family meeting. Although some families have experienced problems in the past that make it difficult for them to cooperate, in times of need most families are willing to help each other.

    • Some religious groups have organized volunteers who are willing to visit with an ill person to read to them, do errands, or even relieve the caretaker for a period of time. Ask your place of worship if it has such services.

    • If you are seriously ill, or have a limited life expectancy, you may be eligible for hospice services. Hospice programs often have volunteers who provide homemaker or companion services.