Family Caregiver Experiences in the Inpatient and Outpatient Reduced-Intensity Conditioning Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Settings: A Qualitative Study

Transplant Cell Ther. 2024 Jun;30(6):610.e1-610.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2023.09.023. Epub 2023 Sep 30.


Caregivers (ie, family and friends) are essential in providing care and support for patients undergoing hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) and throughout their recovery. Traditionally delivered in the hospital, HCT is being increasingly provided in the outpatient setting, potentially heightening the burden on caregivers. Extensive work has examined the inpatient HCT caregiving experience, yet little is known about how caregiver experiences may differ based on whether the HCT was delivered on an inpatient or outpatient basis, particularly during the acute recovery period post-HCT. This study explored the similarities and differences in caregiver experiences in the inpatient and outpatient settings during the early recovery from reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC) allogeneic HCT. We conducted semistructured interviews (n = 15) with caregivers of adults undergoing RIC allogeneic HCT as either an inpatient (n = 7) or an outpatient (n = 8). We recruited caregivers using purposeful criterion sampling, based on the HCT setting, until thematic saturation occurred. Interview recordings were transcribed and coded through thematic analysis using Dedoose v.9.0. The study analysis was guided by the transactional model of stress and coping and the model of adaptation of family caregivers during the acute phase of BMT. Three themes emerged to describe similar experiences for HCT caregivers regardless of setting: (1) caregivers reported feeling like they were a necessary yet invisible part of the care team; (2) caregivers described learning to adapt to changing situations and varying patient needs; and (3) caregivers recounted how the uncertainty following HCT felt like existing between life and death while also maintaining a sense of gratitude and hope for the future. Caregivers also reported distinct experiences based on the transplantation setting and 4 themes emerged: (1) disrupted routines: inpatient caregivers reported disrupted routines when caring for the HCT recipient while simultaneously trying to manage non-caregiving responsibilities at home and work, and outpatient caregivers reported having to establish new routines that included frequent clinic visits with the patient while altering or pausing home and work responsibilities; (2) timing of caregiver involvement: inpatient caregivers felt more involved in care after the patient was discharged from the HCT hospitalization, whereas outpatient caregivers were already providing the majority of care earlier in the post-transplantation period; (3) fear of missing vital information: inpatient caregivers worried about missing vital information about the patient's care and progress if not physically present in the hospital, whereas outpatient caregivers feared overlooking vital information that may warrant contacting the care team as they monitored the patient at home; and (4) perceived adequacy of resources to meet psychosocial and practical needs: inpatient caregivers reported having adequate access to resources (ie, hospital-based services), whereas outpatient caregivers felt they had more limited access and needed to be resourceful in seeking out assistance. Inpatient and outpatient HCT caregivers described both similar and distinct experiences during the acute recovery period post-HCT. Specific interventions should address caregiver psychosocial needs (ie, distress, illness uncertainty, communication, and coping) and practical needs (ie, community resource referral, preparedness for home-based caregiving, and transplantation education) of HCT caregivers based on setting.

Keywords: Care transitions; Caregivers; Distress; Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; Palliative care; Supportive oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caregivers* / psychology
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Inpatients* / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients* / psychology
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Transplantation Conditioning* / methods
  • Transplantation Conditioning* / psychology
  • Transplantation, Homologous