Dialysis Family Care Partners and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Care partners play such an important role in the lives of people living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) or on dialysis. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, it’s helpful to understand how best to support your loved one and keep you both safe.

Dialysis care partner safety and wellness recommendations during COVID-19

People with underlying medical conditions like kidney disease are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, so it’s especially important that family care partners follow safety and wellness recommendations. If you’re caring for someone on dialysis during the COVID-19 pandemic, the following safety measures can help protect those you’re caring for, as well as your own health and safety:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • If you must go out to take your loved one to dialysis treatments or care team appointments, practice social distancing.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Track your own health, as well as the health of your loved one.

How to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19

COVID-19 is primarily spread through close contact with other people. As a care partner, you’ll likely need to be in close contact with your loved one while assisting with their treatment, helping with medications, or providing other care. Along with the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing and good hygiene, there are additional health precautions you can take to limit the spread of the virus:

  • Wash your hands often for at least 40–60 seconds.
  • Limit your contact or shared spaces, when possible.
  • Avoid sharing personal items.
  • Use the proper safety gear—mask and gloves—to limit exposure while administering treatment or handling fluids.
  • Clean and disinfect highly touched surfaces.
  • Watch out for symptoms.

How to keep family members safe during COVID-19

The best way to keep your family members safe during COVID-19 is to make it easier for them to stay home and stay healthy. This means your loved one should not miss any dialysis treatments and should continue taking his or her medications as prescribed. When caring for someone with kidney disease during COVID-19, here are a few ways you can help:

  • Help with basic needs like groceries and housework.
  • Refill regular prescriptions.
  • Follow doctors’ care instructions.
  • Take loved ones to dialysis treatments and care team appointments.
  • Stock the house with kidney-friendly food, medication, and supplies to last 2–4 weeks.
  • Monitor your loved one’s health.

If you or someone in your home shows any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or are feeling unwell, call their care team immediately for instructions and assistance. We’re here to help.

Identifying COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and since people living with kidney disease are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, it’s important for care partners to know the common warning signs to look out for:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever at or above 100.0° F
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Serious cases of COVID-19 may be accompanied by more severe symptoms, such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

Call your loved one’s care team if you notice or experience any of these warning signs. Do not come into the center unless instructed by a care team member in order to prevent spreading or contracting the virus.

Taking care of your own wellbeing during COVID-19

While you’re caring for someone during COVID-19, it’s also important to look out for your own physical health and emotional wellness. If you feel overwhelmed, here are some suggestions to help you prioritize your mental health and wellbeing:

  • Monitor and manage stress levels
    Symptoms of stress can differ from person to person, so make sure you’re aware of how your body and mind respond to overwhelming situations. Monitoring your stress levels can help you recognize when to ask for help or take some time to unwind.
  • Make time for yourself
    Even if you aren’t feeling overwhelmed, taking some time each day for yourself can help keep your mind and body healthy. Go on a walk, read a book, have a cup of coffee, or do something that makes you feel relaxed and at peace.
  • Get enough sleep
    If you’re struggling to stay focused or don’t have enough energy throughout the day, you may need a few more hours of sleep at night. This is the time your body uses to reset and recharge.
  • Maintain a healthy diet
    Eating healthy food can also help you stay energized and feel better overall. If you’re feeling sluggish or weak, make sure you’ve loaded your diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
  • Build a support network
    Being a care partner requires a lot of mental, physical, and emotional energy. Your support network will be more necessary than ever during a pandemic like COVID-19, so make time to reach out to your family and friends. While connecting with your loved ones may look a little different during this time of social distancing, there are plenty of communication tools available, such as online chat, video conferencing, or picking up the phone. The support you offer is so important—just remember to prioritize your own wellbeing, too.
Following the recommended safety guidelines, preparing your loved ones for treatment during COVID-19, and looking after your own health are essential steps family care partners should take during these uncertain times. At Fresenius Kidney Care, we want you to know that you are not alone, and your care team is here to help. If you have any questions, please reach out for support.

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