I am Starting Dialysis Treatment: What to Expect & How To Thrive
Everyone feels a mix of emotions when beginning dialysis—it’s a big change and a new routine to get used to. Starting and staying with dialysis treatment can help you feel better and be more able to do the things you love.
What can you do to get the most out of your dialysis experience?
- Follow your dialysis treatment schedule—and take your medications exactly as prescribed by your nephrologist (kidney doctor).
- Play an active role in your dialysis treatment—and communicate with your treatment team about any changes in your health or how you feel. You know yourself best, so your input helps ensure that your treatment fits your life.
- Get support—encouragement from your family and friends is essential along the way.
Knowing what to expect
Starting in-center hemodialysis
If you’ve chosen to receive your dialysis at a center, you’ll have the convenience of having your treatment, labs and checkups all in one place. You’ll also get to be around other people going through a similar experience.
Plan for what you need to succeed:
- A full commitment to dialysis treatment times—approximately 3 times a week, 3–5 hours per session, plus travel time. Your kidney doctor will prescribe your exact routine.
- Staying for the full dialysis session—cutting your treatment short even by a few minutes can make dialysis less effective and have a negative impact on your health.
- Transportation to and from dialysis appointments—for the first 6–12 months, you’ll be tired after treatments. Ask a family member, friend or caregiver for a ride. When you feel well enough, you may want to drive yourself.
Starting at-home peritoneal dialysis
If you and your nephrologist have decided on at-home peritoneal dialysis (PD), you’ll be treating in the comfort of your own home, which can have enormous benefits. Many doctors and people living with CKD agree that at-home treatment is the best option when possible. Because of its flexibility, you’ll be able to lead a more normal social and work life, plus you may have fewer food restrictions and fewer medications to take.
Tips for getting ready:
- Have a home visit by your dialysis-training nurse—to see where you can do your treatments and store supplies
- Make sure your kidney doctor has checked your catheter—it takes about 2 weeks after surgical placement for your access site to heal and “mature” before use in your treatments
- Give yourself time—PD takes about 2 weeks to learn and master
- Get support—you can do PD on your own, but it’s a good idea to have a family member or friend to help you do exchanges if you’d like
Starting at-home hemodialysis
Along with the comfort of treating in your own home, at-home hemodialysis (HD) offers the technology and services to make treatment even more convenient. Today’s equipment is compact and easy to use—plus, results from your health monitoring can be automatically transmitted to your treatment team for timely monitoring.
What to have prior to starting:
- Complete training from your at-home dialysis nurse—along with your care partner (family member or close friend), lasting anywhere from 4–8 weeks
- A dependable care partner—a family member or friend who will participate in your HD treatments or stay with you while you do them
- A full commitment to treatment times—following the schedule your doctor prescribes
- Efficient water and electrical systems—a tech team will be sent to check them in advance
- Space to store supplies and equipment—enough for 1 month's worth of treatment
Coping with dialysis
Working through your emotions
Going on dialysis is a whole new phase of living with chronic kidney disease and one that may trigger a flood of new feelings. Even once you’re in a solid routine, you may still be getting used to the changes dialysis brings to your life. Take steps to manage your feelings and regain your sense of control.
Step 1: Recognize that your feelings are normal.
Step 2: Try different approaches to processing your emotions and find out what works for you.
Step 3: Ask for help if you need it! Your doctor can refer you to a therapist and your social worker can recommend support groups.
"Emotionally, I make sure that I keep myself in the hands of my family members."
—Gloria, on dialysis since March 2013
Get to know your expanded treatment team
When you start dialysis, you’ll have a new crew of people on your treatment team, including at-home or in-center dialysis nurses, a social worker and a renal (kidney) dietitian. These new team members will work with you to support you in your dialysis experience, so tap into their expertise.
Your role in treatment
With all of the other people involved in your dialysis treatment, it’s easy to become reliant on your team of doctors, nurses and other experts to guide your kidney care. But the more you’re involved in your treatment, the more impact you can have on making sure your Care Plan is tailored to your life. You are the person who can have the biggest influence on your success, so speak up, talk to your doctors and get involved. Your participation can also help you stay motivated and restore a sense of control over your health.
Be in the know. Take a free class.
Take our free class and discover how to thrive with kidney disease. Learn more about kidney health and treatment options that fit into your lifestyle.