When someone you love enters the hospital for a bone marrow or cord blood transplant (also called a BMT), you may be there with him or her all day, most days of the week, and in some cases all night, too. As a caregiver, you can give emotional support, be an advocate for the patient with doctors and nurses and help link the patient to family and friends.
Acting as part of the health care team
Sometimes the patient may need you to speak to doctors for him or her. The patient may feel too tired or ill to ask questions or tell the doctors and nurses about any pain or new symptoms. You may also help take care of the patient during recovery. For example, you may need to care for a central line or give medications. For more details, see Becoming a Member of the Health Care Team.
Providing emotional support
Spending time with your loved one may be the most important thing you do. You can be there to listen and to talk or simply be present. This kind of support can play a big role in a person's recovery. If your loved one is in the hospital for a long time, you can help brighten the room — bring photos of family, friends and pets, posters and cards. Bring in funny movies or other things to give you a chance to laugh together. For other ideas of what to bring to make the time in the hospital easier, see Getting Ready for Your Transplant — a Checklist (PDF).
Some days may be harder than others. The stress of treatment, being in the hospital or the drugs the patient is taking may change his or her personality. He or she might feel depressed or angry. Sometimes, the drugs cause patients to say things that don't make sense or see things that aren't there.
- Remember these changes are temporary.
- Seek out your own emotional support. It may help to join a support group or talk to the families of other transplant patients.
Keeping in touch with family and friends
You can help your loved one stay connected to friends and family. It may help to set up a system to keep people updated on the patient's progress. Some systems people use include:
- Post regular updates on a Web site. One organization that offers space for a free Web site is www.CaringBridge.org/marrow. You can post journal entries and pictures. Visitors to your Web site can leave you messages of support as well.
- Record updates on your outgoing voice mail or answering machine message.
- Create a phone tree. You can call one or two people to share your current news, and they share it with others.
You may also need to serve as a gatekeeper sometimes. You can let people know when the patient wants visitors and when he or she is not up to them.
People who care about you and the patient will ask how they can help. Accept their offers. It may be easier if you have a list of tasks you need help with ready to share with them. You can also let them know about other ways to help.