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Thrive On

Your Role in At-Home Peritoneal Dialysis Treatment

There are quite a few advantages to peritoneal dialysis (PD) and a few things to remember, too. If the person you care for has chosen PD, they will likely be doing their treatments, called “exchanges,” by themselves. However, as their care partner, you’ll want to know if they would appreciate some help.

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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 make those choices for or with them. 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 so you both know what to expect. 
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Cleanliness is key

PD requires a catheter or tube, in the abdomen to fill and drain dialysate (the liquid that cleans the blood) during each exchange, so it is vital to keep the exit site and catheter clean. Fortunately, you will both learn how to clean the area during the home dialysis training program and the home treatment team will offer any needed assistance.
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Be the timekeeper

Whether the person you care for does their exchange process every 4 to 6 hours or by using a cycler overnight, it helps if they stay on a schedule—and do the full treatment. Missing a treatment can lead to short- and long-term consequences. Make sure they know when it’s time for an exchange.
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Know their numbers

To ensure they are getting enough dialysis to effectively filter their blood, the person you care for will need to have blood samples drawn at a clinic at least once a month. Periodically, they will also need to collect their urine and filtered dialysate over a 24-hour period and submit these specimens for testing during a clinic visit. If they have diabetes, they will also need to test their blood sugar as prescribed by their physician. As their care partner, it’s a good idea to keep track of their lab results so you can share with their doctor or nurse during follow-up appointments at the clinic. Find out what's involved with PD.
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Encourage healthy eating

One advantage of PD is that the person you care for may be less restricted in what they eat than with other types of dialysis. But that doesn’t mean it will be a feast every day. You can help them stay as healthy as possible by working with their renal dietitian to come up with a kidney-friendly meal plan they’ll find tasty and satisfying. Get helpful tips on eating well.
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Make some space—and a plan

At-home PD treatment requires a dry storage space for the solution, supplies and equipment. Along with the home treatment team, you and the person you care for should decide the best place to keep it all. And, make sure you are always prepared and have enough supplies on hand in case of an emergency. This usually includes an additional 5 to 7 days of treatment supplies.
Maintain a dialysis schedule
Support the dialysis schedule

Missing even a few minutes of dialysis a few times a month can severely impact the person you care for, including life expectancy. Helping your loved one stay on schedule and get full treatments can help your loved one live longer and feel better.

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Staying active is important

People on dialysis do better when they move around and stay active. And, in fact, so will you. Go for a walk with the person you care for as often as possible. Encourage them to stay engaged with their work or hobbies. Studies show that people on dialysis do better when they stay active. As always, check with their doctor before encouraging them to start a new exercise routine.
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Take time for yourself

Being a care partner for someone can be challenging, emotionally and physically. Going to the movies or visiting with friends is a great way to get away from it all. Having someone to talk to can also help you express how you’re feeling and may lower your stress level.
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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.
“Support them and validate their ups and downs. A lot of times I ask, 'How can I best support you? What would be really helpful?'”

—Francine LaFlair
Licensed Clinical Social Worker