BMT Caregivers: Effective support programs tailored to their needs

Caregivers need support and tools before and long after BMT. Fortunately, effective strategies to care for caregivers have been outlined in psychosocial research. And rather than create your own new program, you can access the many evidence-based programs that provide free support and resources.  

Caregivers may have worse quality of life (QOL) scores than patients long after BMT

The scope of responsibility for BMT caregivers may include physical, psychosocial, financial and spiritual care, which can take a toll on their well-being, particularly if they neglect self-care.1 Caregivers may use avoidant coping strategies and experience anxiety and depression.2 However, once the patient recovers from the transplant, the caregiver recovers too, right? 

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. A study comparing nearly 500 BMT recipient and caregiver pairs with non-BMT controls found that while physical health QOL scores were better for caregivers than recipients, the caregivers had worse social and spiritual QOL scores.3 Caregivers also had more fatigue than the non-BMT controls. 2 Even more, the pairs were on average seven years post-BMT. 

Interventions for BMT caregivers need flexibility 

A systematic review of caregiver interventions outlines variable factors across caregiver support programs:4

  • Frequency and duration. Consider how often caregivers receive an intervention and for how long. Since BMT caregivers can experience distress many years post-transplant, interventions should not be limited to the BMT unit.
  • Audience. Depending on the content and caregiver needs, consider whether the intervention is provided to the caregiver individually, the caregiver and patient pair, or a group of caregivers.
  • Content. Consider what will be the intervention’s focus. For many caregiver interventions, the focus is on practical matters of caring for their loved one. But caregivers may also need help with self-care, emotional well-being, adjusting to life post-transplant, and communicating with doctors.  

The missing ingredient may be the referral

For many nurses, social workers and clinicians, the challenge is practical. In a busy clinic, how can the team support the long-term needs of caregivers while maintaining their primary focus on the patient? 

The Be The Match® Patient Support Center can help you overcome these barriers. We can support your patients and their caregivers--even caregivers whose loved one’s transplant was years ago, and even caregivers whose loved one has died. While you provide exceptional care to your patients and caregivers, let us help you in cases where caregivers needs can be supplemented or go beyond what you can provide them. 

Referral Resources

To learn more about free caregiver support available through NMDP/Be The Match, read BMT caregivers find comfort and support through NMDP/Be The Match services[AH1]  or access the Patient Support Center.


  1. Ferrell, B. et al. (2018). Family Caregivers: A qualitative study to better understand the quality-of-life concerns and needs of this population. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 22(3): 286-294. DOI: 10.1188/18.CJON.286-294
  2. Lambert, S. D., Girgis, A., Lecathelinais, C., & Stacey, F. (2013). Walking a mile in their shoes: Anxiety and depression among partners and caregivers of cancer survivors at 6 and 12 months post-diagnosis. Support Care Cancer, 21, 75–85. DOI: 10.1007/s00520-012-1495-7
  3. Bishop, M. et al. (2007). Late effects of cancer and hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation on spouses or partners compared with survivors and survivor-matched controls. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 25(11): 1403-1411. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2006.07.5705
  4. Ferrell, B. et al. (2017). A Review of Family Caregiving Intervention Trials in Oncology. Cancer. 67(4): 318-325. DOI: 10.3322/caac.21396