When you are referred for a bone marrow or cord blood transplant (also called a BMT), you will need someone to be your caregiver — the person who helps care for you during and after your transplant. Your transplant caregiver is important to the success of your transplant.
Questions you may want to ask
For many people, a parent, a spouse or partner or other close family member is the natural choice to serve as caregiver. Other people have several family members or friends who may be able to help them. In either case, it is important that both you and your caregiver understand the caregiver's role.
Things you may want to think about before asking someone to be your caregiver include:
- You might have to be at the hospital for long periods of time. Is this person comfortable in the hospital setting?
- Will your caregiver be able to take you to your medical appointments?
- Can she or he deal with stressful situations?
- Your caregiver may have to be away from his or her work for weeks or even months. Is your caregiver able to take a leave (Family Medical Leave Act — FMLA) or an extended absence from work? Does he or she have a good means of support that will allow for unpaid time off?
- Are you and your caregiver able to get along most of the time? Do you get over disagreements easily?
- Will your caregiver support your health care choices?
- Will your caregiver be a strong advocate for you?
Questions a potential caregiver may want to ask
A potential caregiver will want to know more about what a caregiver does for a patient. Questions a caregiver will want to answer include:
- What exactly will I do as a caregiver?
- What do I have to know to be a caregiver?
- How long will I be a caregiver?
- Can I afford to be away from work for an extended period of time?
- Do I have others who can help me?
- How will I take care of my own responsibilities while I'm a caregiver?
For answers to these and other questions, ask your potential caregiver to read Helping Your Loved One Prepare for Transplant. Other caregivers also offer suggestions at Being an Effective Caregiver.
More than one person may be your caregiver
You may have a spouse or partner who will be your caregiver, and often there is no one better to care for you. However, if you do not have a person who is able to care for you full-time, you may want to think about asking others to share the responsibilities.
- For a free, easy online tool to organize a community of family and friends who want to help, see Lotsa Helping Hands: http://www.marrow.lotsahelpinghands.com. With this private group Web calendar, people can see what help is needed and when, so everyone can pitch in to help make the transplant patient's life run more smoothly.
- For one model of a way to organize a caregiving team, see http://www.sharethecare.org.
Things you may want to discuss
No matter whom you ask to be your caregiver, you will want to talk to him or her about the ways your relationship may change during and after your transplant. This may put a strain on your relationship. For suggestions on how to work through some of the issues you may have, see Managing Relationships with Family & Friends.