A caregiver plays a crucial role in helping a patient through BMT and recovery. As difficult as it sometimes seems, this role is a key component of a full and safe recovery.
Being a caregiver for a person who’s having a BMT can be a life-changing event. If you have offered to be a caregiver, you will be helping someone you care about in a way that may lead to personal growth and added closeness.
In this role, you will need to learn to perform various physical tasks. You also will need to take care of yourself emotionally and physically while trying to support the patient whose emotions can fluctuate a great deal after this major procedure.
Prepare yourself in advance for the caregiver role. If your loved one or spouse is the patient, it is natural for you to become the caregiver. It might be something you want to do. But you should be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and remember to ask for help when needed.
Caregiving requires a significant time commitment. The patient needs help at many different times, for everything from driving to appointments to preparing meals. As the recovery progresses, the time commitment should ease. But for many weeks you may need to devote most of the day to the patient’s needs.
A caregiver’s tasks include:
- Going with the patient to appointments
- Communicating with transplant team members and gathering information
- Providing transportation to and from the treatment center or clinic
- Assisting with the scheduled oral and intravenous medicines after hospital discharge
- Keeping track of the medicines taken after hospital discharge
- Keeping an eye on the patient’s condition and identifying any changes or new symptoms
- Caring for the patient's central venous catheter
- Knowing what to do in an emergency
- Calling for medical help when needed
- Keeping a clean and comfortable home environment
- Helping to prepare or provide meals for the patient
- Helping with medical and hospital bills, insurance paperwork, and financial planning for the family
- Providing emotional support and encouragement
- Communicating with other family members and friends
Taking Care of Yourself
Being a caregiver is demanding. It can shift your primary role to that of medical caregiver. Caregiving is a demanding job, one that can’t be done well if you’re stressed and tired. There are things you can do to take care of yourself.
The more you know, the more comfortable you are likely to be with the role. Take advantage of the classes and training offered by the transplant program.
Make sure you take some time for yourself. Get away from the hospital or house once in a while. Talk with friends. Go to a movie or take a long walk.
Turn to other people for help when appropriate. Even if you are the main caregiver, other friends and relatives may be able to help with such things as preparing meals or providing transportation.
Communicate openly and honestly with the patient about your needs as well as his or her needs.
Take advantage of available resources, such as transplant program support groups, your social worker, a chaplain or other spiritual adviser.