Being cared for at home

If you choose to die at home, it’s important that you and your carers have as much support as possible.

Who can help if you are looked after at home

You may want to be at home as much as possible. But you may need some nursing care or support from other professionals to help you manage. Having support can help both you and your carers.

The support and services available are different across the UK. Your GP or social worker can talk to you about what is available in your area.

Your GP

Your GP has overall responsibility for your care when you are at home. They can prescribe any drugs you need and arrange help from other professionals. They will also arrange for you to go into hospital or a hospice if needed.

You can talk to your GP about what may happen as you become less well. They can discuss plans for the future with you. This might include:

Your GP can also arrange for a district nurse to visit you if you need nursing care.

Community or district nurses

Community or district nurses can make regular home visits to help with:

  • nursing care, such as changing dressings and giving medicines
  • giving advice and support on pressure area care and toilet problems, such as incontinence and constipation
  • showing your carers how to move you and look after your personal care needs, such as washing and toilet needs
  • arranging for a social carer or healthcare assistant to help you with personal care
  • arranging practical aids, such as pressure-relieving mattresses or commodes.

A community or district nurse will work with palliative care nurses to help support you and your carers so you can stay at home.

Marie Curie Nurses

In some parts of the UK, you can get support from a Marie Curie nurse or healthcare assistant. A nurse can advise you about medication. A healthcare assistant can help with practical tasks such as washing and dressing.

Marie Curie can sometimes provide nursing overnight from a registered nurse or healthcare assistant. Your GP or district nurse can tell you if Marie Curie nurses are in your area.

Social services

Social services can help if you find some parts of your daily life difficult. Social care can include getting help with:

  • personal care, such as washing and dressing
  • tasks like cleaning and cooking.

There are different ways to access social care. Your hospital team, GP or district nurse can refer you to social services. Or you can refer yourself.

You will have a needs assessment before any care is arranged. A social worker will ask you about your daily routine and what you find difficult. Sometimes an occupational therapist or nurse may do this instead.

Each local authority has its own assessment procedure. Local authorities will have information on their website. They can also provide an up-to-date list of local providers and can signpost you to services. Find your local authority here.

You usually have to pay towards the cost of services. This depends on your financial situation. If you have a lot of care needs, you may be eligible for funding for your care. Your GP or a social worker can tell you more.


Physiotherapists can help keep you moving. They can advise you and your carers on the best and safest way for you to move around your home. They can also offer treatment and exercise programmes to help you manage symptoms such as pain, breathlessness and fatigue.

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists working in the community can help you keep your independence. They can assess your situation and arrange for any aids or changes you need.

Aids might include toilet frames, handrails or a wheelchair. A change might be something like fixing safety rails in your bathroom or making doors wider.

An occupational therapist may be able to help you change your daily routines and activities to help you manage low moods. Some can also help you manage anxiety, fatigue and breathlessness.

Voluntary organisations and charities

Voluntary organisations and charities offer different kinds of help, including information, help with tasks at home, loans of equipment, grants and transport.

Some organisations have volunteers who can spend time with you to give your carer a break during the daytime. Others can provide befriending services for people who are on their own.

Palliative care

Specialist palliative care teams provide advice and support for people who have a life-limiting illness. They also provide support for the person’s family and friends.

Some people are referred to a palliative care team early on in their illness. Others will only be referred as they approach the end of their life.

Your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or GP can refer you to a palliative care team if you need specialist support or care. Hospital palliative care teams can visit you if you are in hospital or attending a clinic appointment.

Community palliative care teams are often linked to a hospice. Members of the team can visit you at home or in a care home.

Palliative care teams can include:

  • specialist palliative care nurses
  • specialist palliative care doctors
  • a social worker
  • a counsellor
  • an occupational therapist
  • a physiotherapist
  • a spiritual care coordinator or chaplain.

What do palliative care teams do?

Palliative care teams can give you advice on managing pain and other symptoms. They also provide emotional support and can advise you about practical problems. They can help you make an advance care plan and help coordinate your care.

Palliative care nurses are experts in assessing and treating any symptoms you may have. They can also provide emotional support to you and your carers. Palliative care nurses are sometimes called Macmillan nurses.

Palliative care doctors specialise in the management of symptoms in people who are approaching the end of their life. They work closely with palliative care nurses and may visit people at home, if needed.

Some community palliative care teams have nurses or healthcare assistants who can visit you at home and provide practical nursing and personal care. This might include washing you, dressing you and giving you drugs. A palliative care nurse can tell you more about the care provided by their team.

Palliative care nursing services are free. Your GP or your doctor or nurse at the hospital can refer you.

Support for carers

If you are caring for a loved one, you may be anxious about looking after them at home. However, with the right help, it can be a rewarding experience.

You might find our information about supporting someone helpful. You can also:

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our advanced cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    Health Improvement Scotland/ NHS Scotland. Scottish Palliative Care Guidelines. Available from [accessed Nov 2021].

    NICE. Care of dying adults in the last days of life. NICE guideline NG31 [Internet]. 2015. Available from [accessed Nov 2021].

    NICE. End of life care for adults: service delivery. NICE guideline NG142 [Internet]. 2019. Available from [accessed Nov 2021].

    NICE. Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer. Cancer service guideline CSG4 [Internet]. 2004. Available from [accessed Nov 2021].

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Viv Lucas, Consultant in Palliative Medicine.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 September 2022
Next review: 01 September 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.