Your Role in In-Center Hemodialysis Treatment

If the person you care for has chosen in-center dialysis, there are certain things you’ll need to know to help them—and to take care of yourself as well. The first is that in-center dialysis can be a 3-, 4- or even 5-day-a-week commitment and last anywhere from 3 hours to overnight for each session. Make sure you are both prepared for the commitment.
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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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You may be overwhelmed at first

There will be a lot of new information, and the person you care for may not be in the right frame of mind to remember it all. The good news is that, eventually, going to the dialysis center with them will become routine—and you’ll know exactly what to do. And, of course, we’re here to help you every step of the way.


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Get it in writing

Write down as much as you can during the dialysis training sessions and in-center meetings with your loved one’s treatment team. This way, you won’t have to remember all the information at once. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s even a good idea to write down questions that you want to ask the next time you see the dietitian, social worker, nurse, technician or nephrologist. You might not see everyone on the treatment team each time you come to the center so having your notes will help you remember the important questions you need to ask. Use our handy Treatment Team Discussion Guide for helpful tips on what to ask and how to get the information you need.  
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Stick to the schedule

Whether the person you care for is doing hemodialysis during the day or throughout the night, they should have as normal a schedule as possible. And be sure to arrive 15 minutes early for each appointment, so they have time to get ready for the full treatment. Missing even a few minutes of one treatment can make dialysis less effective and have a negative impact on their health.
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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.
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Know their limits

Dialysis can be a very tiring process. Even though the person you care for will be sitting during the entire procedure, he or she may be fatigued when they are finished. So it’s a good idea not to schedule a lot of other activities on dialysis days.
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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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While you're waiting

We love it when you come to the dialysis appointment with the person you care for. However, usually only patients are allowed in the treatment area to help ensure the safety and comfort of you and your loved one. If you would still prefer to wait at the center, consider bringing a book to read or something else to help occupy your time while you’re waiting.
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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.

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You might have to take the wheel

Because your loved one may be very fatigued, you may need to drive them to and from the dialysis center. Be sure you’re ready to be in the driver’s seat on dialysis days or be prepared to organize another means of transportation for your loved one.
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Take time for yourself

Being a care partner is hard work, emotionally and physically. Make sure you take time to do some of the things you enjoy on your own, such as visiting friends, going to the movies or just going for a walk. Finding healthy ways to relieve stress can do a surprising amount of good for your energy and mood. 

Maintain a 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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