The blood and marrow transplant experience can elicit many emotions. Dealing with a life-threatening illness, absorbing the information about a BMT, making the decision and the uncertainty of what can happen during the transplant are all issues the patient must cope with. The hope for a cure sustains the patient and family members through the difficult treatment and recovery period.
What can family and friends do to help the patient?
The answer varies with the patient's likes and dislikes. Ask the patient what they prefer. Some suggestions/ideas that you can discuss are:
- Visiting. The physical condition of the patient will change on a daily basis. Some days a visit may be welcome and on other days, a short phone call may be all the patient can handle. A primary caregiver should be identified to screen the phone calls and visits. Patients and families should check with their team about visitor guidelines.
- Staying Connected. Patients will welcome contact from you. It keeps them in touch with the outside world and with friends and family members back home. Cards, videos, photo albums, and posters are just some of the items that can be mailed. Patients may also utilize email, web cameras and other electronic media to stay in touch.
- Your presence means a lot to the patient. Sometimes he or she may want to visit, other times just sitting with them is appreciated. You may offer to read a newspaper, book or talk about what's happening to family and friends. The patient may want to just listen, but not engage in conversation. A hand, foot, or back massage may be enjoyed.
- Gifts. If you are thinking of sending a gift, keep it simple. Check with a primary caregiver for gift ideas that would be appropriate for the patient. The patient is often tired and may have a short attention span because of the medical regimen. Picture books, short stories, or easy puzzles that do not require a lot of concentration are good ideas. Do not send flowers or plant materials–these can pose infection risk.
Where can I find a BMT support group?
Support groups provide vital information that helps BMT patients and their family members cope with the disease, face the challenges of treatment and improve their quality of life. Check with you social worker for more information about support groups.