The Caregiver Role

The caregiver role is very important and a requirement for all patients during both the pre- and post-transplant phases of treatment. A stem cell transplant places significant stress and demands on patients and loved ones. Research has shown the benefits of strong support systems to help the patient throughout the transplant process. Some patients have one designated caregiver throughout the transplant process, while some have caregiver responsibilities shared among family members or friends. It is important to consider in advance who would be able to be your caregiver(s) and discuss this with them.

Patients are sometimes away from home, friends and loved ones for long periods of time during treatment. In contrast to the benefits of support systems for patients, those in caregiver roles may experience distress as well. It is often easy to forget that the caregiver is also away from all the familiar people and places that they depend on daily. For the well-being of everyone it is important to realize that the caregiver will need rest and time for relaxation, too. You should plan for time to allow your caregiver to relax and replenish his/her own strength.

To help you select caregivers and to help potential caregivers decide if they should accept this responsibility, a list of typical caregiver responsibilities follows. A caregiver does not need to know how to perform all of these responsibilities in agreeing to be a caregiver. He or she only needs to be willing to learn how to perform them, if necessary.

Typical caregiver responsibilities:

Making arrangements

  • Transportation
  • Financial
  • Appointments

Giving emotional support

  • Being physically present
  • Giving encouragement
  • Listening

Providing physical care

  • Taking temperature, pulse and blood pressure
  • Giving injections
  • Monitoring food and fluid intake and output
  • Performing tasks such as CVC care
  • Recording medications taken/administered
  • Administering IV fluids and medications using a pump device
  • Identifying changes in patient's condition
  • Accessing medical care if needed
  • Reporting patient's symptoms to health care staff

Maintaining the home environment

  • Cleaning
  • Meal planning
  • Grocery shopping
  • Preparing meals
  • Acquiring and maintaining medical supplies
  • Helping to keep a restful routine

Patient advocacy

  • Gathering information
  • Helping with decision-making
  • Serving as a communication link with other family members and the transplant team