According to a study published in Blood Advances, caregivers of patients undergoing a stem cell transplant cope with high caregiver burden, psychological distress, and worse quality of life.
When preparing for a transplant, some stem cell transplant centres may require the designation of a primary caregiver– someone who will support the patient during the first 100 days after their transplant. Most patients receive induction chemotherapy before undergoing a stem-cell transplant for a blood cancer which effectively wipes out their immune system, leaving them highly vulnerable to infection and other medical complications. Stem cell transplant is commonly used to treat patients with myeloma. The caregiver has many responsibilities, like taking the proper steps to make sure the patient stays protected from infections, making sure the patient takes their medications, helping them prepare for their daily routine and coordinating communication between patient and healthcare teams.
The researchers in this study classified caregiver coping strategies into two broad categories called “avoidant” and “approach-oriented”.
Avoidant coping strategies include denial of the reality of the situation, and self-blame, in which the caregiver blames themselves if the patient misses a medication dose or is late for an appointment. Approach-oriented coping strategies include active problem-solving, finding sources of emotional support, and using “positive reframing” to think about their situation in a different way.
170 primary caregivers of people with a blood cancer who were undergoing a stem cell transplant were enrolled in this study. Most caregivers were female (130, or 76.5%) and white (147, or 86.5%); their median age was 53. Shortly after the patient’s admission to the hospital for their stem cell transplant, caregivers completed questionnaires that asked about their use of different coping strategies, symptoms of anxiety or depression, and quality of life. The researchers also looked at caregivers’ reliance on religious beliefs as a coping strategy.
Several caregivers reported high use of acceptance (55.9%), positive reframing (45.9%), and religious (44.1%) coping strategies. Caregivers who relied on approach-oriented coping strategies such as these (49.4%) had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression and better quality of life compared with those who relied on avoidant coping strategies (32.9%).
If you would like to read more about this study, click here.
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.