Caring For Someone
on Dialysis — and
Caring for Yourself
Dialysis is a life changer—for the person undergoing treatment, as well as close family and friends. Choices and new routines may be overwhelming at times, but eventually things will become more manageable and even more normal. Get tools and guidance to help you give your best support as a care partner—and take care of yourself along the way. That way both you and your loved one can thrive.
Your Role in At-Home Hemodialysis Treatment
If the person you care for has chosen at-home hemodialysis, you’ll need to be there during the procedure every time. At-home hemodialysis can be done 3 to 6 times a week for 2 to 8 hours at a time, so make sure you can handle the commitment.
Knowledge is key
In the beginning, the person you care for will need to make a lot of choices, and you may be asked to help with those choices. Start by taking advantage of the wealth of information on this site. Check out the section on Treatment Options and take a look at our Treatment Decision Guide. It’s also a great idea to go to a KidneyCare:365 class with your loved one(s) so you can learn how to live well with kidney disease and why planning ahead can lead to the best decisions.
Training for care partners is key
Home hemodialysis requires training for both of you. Over the course of 4 to 8 weeks, you’ll learn all aspects of performing a dialysis treatment with the home treatment team. The great news is that it will eventually become a regular routine you’ll find relatively easy to do.
Get into the routine
Whether the person you care for is doing at-home hemodialysis during the day or throughout the night, it helps to have a fairly routine schedule. And, make sure they stay on the machine for the entire treatment. Missing just a few minutes can make dialysis less effective and seriously impact your loved one’s health.
Find the right space
At-home hemodialysis treatment requires a dry storage space for the dialysate as well as the machine. Along with the home treatment team, you and the person you care for should decide the best location for both storage and the treatment itself. And you’ll need to make sure there are enough supplies (about a week’s worth) available in case of an emergency. If the power goes out, you’ll need to make other plans.
Eat well, be well
One advantage of more frequent or nocturnal (nighttime) hemodialysis is that the person you care for may be able to eat more of what they like—within reason. Work with their renal dietitian to come up with a meal plan that’s as satisfying and tasty as it is kind to their kidneys. Get helpful tips on eating well.
Go for a walk outdoors with the person you care for as often as possible. It will be good for both of you. And try to encourage them to stick with their work and hobbies, even if they’re feeling down. Studies show that people on dialysis do better when they stay engaged with the world around them.
Keep track of their symptoms
Flu-like symptoms, such as feeling tired or weak and having chills, are common for people on dialysis. You may notice they sleep more or are more forgetful. These symptoms are most often due to anemia—a shortage of red blood cells—and can be treated. Be sure to keep the nephrologist and treatment team informed about how the person you care for is doing.
Keep important information with you
You want to be sure that you have your loved one’s medical information written down, including all medications and the names of their doctors. Keep it with you at all times so you can be prepared for an emergency—before there’s an actual emergency.
Give yourself a break
As a care partner, it’s vital that you continue to take time to do some of the things you enjoy on your own. Finding healthy ways to relieve the stress, such as yoga or walking, can do a surprising amount of good for your energy and mood. As always, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
YOU´VE GOT SUPPORT
Your home treatment team is just a phone call away 24/7 and ready to help with whatever you need.