8 Tips for Coping With Dialysis

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on November 3, 2020
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    Adapting to Ongoing Treatment
    Dialysis is an effective long-term treatment that saves lives. It's not a one-time treatment though. It's something you'll do several times a week for one type of treatment, or every day for another. This can take hours of your time—plus travel time if you have to go to a clinic for treatment. All of that is a big adjustment in anyone’s life. It can be overwhelming at first, but many people on dialysis live full and active lives. Here are some tips to help you cope.
  • RA's Impact Goes Beyond Joints
    1. Be an Active Member of Your Treatment Team
    Learn as much as you can about dialysis. Understand all your options. Knowing the facts will help you take an active role in treatment decisions. This is one of the best ways to cope with fear and anxiety. Write down questions to ask your doctor and nurse. Talk about your emotional needs with your social worker. Work on nutritional health issues with your dietitian. Be sure to get your family involved. Make sure you have the support you need at home.
  • Know Your Depression Risk
    2. Watch Out for Depression
    Dialysis can cause big changes. You may have less time and less energy. You may need to make changes at home and at work. For instance, you might need to give up some activities and responsibilities. For this reason, depression is common with dialysis. Occasionally feeling down is not unexpected at the beginning. But watch out for true depression. Feeling down for more than two weeks in a row is not normal. You should seek treatment if you start having changes in your mood, appetite, sleep pattern, or energy level, as well as lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
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    3. Live Your Life
    Dialysis can force changes in your routine. Try to return to as many normal activities as possible though. Many people continue to work while on dialysis. Talk to your employer with a report from your doctor in hand. Remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects you. If you plan properly and stay flexible, you can return to many of your previous activities. Try not to see yourself as being sick. This will be better for you in the long run.
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    4. Keep Exercising
    Exercise is one of the best ways to fight fatigue and depression. First check with your doctor to see how much exercise and what type of exercise is safe for you. Exercise will also help you reduce stress. It will increase your strength and endurance, too. These benefits add up. You will enjoy a better quality of life. If you have trouble staying motivated, exercise with a friend or family member.
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    5. Take Advantage of Dialysis Time
    It can be hard to spend time hooked up to a machine. That’s why it’s important to make the most of that time. Don’t let it be wasted time. Use it to catch up on emails or work on your laptop. Or read a book you haven't found time for. You also might listen to music or do guided meditation in order to de-stress. Use your dialysis time in a way that benefits you.
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    6. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
    Sleep problems are common when you’re on dialysis. You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. You also may have sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome (RLS). These sleep disturbances can lead to daytime sleepiness, headaches, and depression. They can make it harder to cope with dialysis. Most people find that moderate exercise helps improve sleep. Also try to avoid alcohol and caffeine. Let your doctor know if you have any sleep problems. You can get treatments for sleep apnea and RLS.
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    7. Stick to a Dialysis Diet
    Your dialysis dietitian can give you tips on how to limit your fluid intake and control your thirst. You also can learn to avoid foods that are high in potassium, phosphorus and salt. Instead, fill your diet with high-quality protein and calories. With a little help, you can develop a nutritious meal plan that will help you cope by making you feel healthy and energized.
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    8. Keep a Positive Attitude
    Start by accepting your situation. Think of how dialysis helps you. It gives you the ability to live your life. Think about the fact that some people live as long on dialysis as people without kidney failure. Think how much better you feel after dialysis. If you just can’t seem to get your mind to a positive place, talk with your care team. Some counseling may help get you through this trying time.
8 Tips for Coping With Dialysis | Healthgrades
  1. Coping Effectively: A Guide for Patients and Their Families. National Kidney Foundation.  https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/parentcoping.cfm
  2. Treatment Methods for Kidney Failure: Hemodialysis. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), 2011. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/hemodialysis/
  3. A “New Normal:" Life on Dialysis -- The First 90 Days. National Kidney Foundation, 2007. https://www.kidney.org/patients/peers/pdf/11-10-0307_DialysisTransitionBk2_Oct07_LR_bm.pdf
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Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 3
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.