Did you recently discover that your kidneys are not working well, and you'll need dialysis until you can have a transplant? Adjusting to life with dialysis will be challenging but, more than anything, manageable. Going on dialysis several times a week will take a toll on your body and mind. That's why you need to know how to cope with your new lifestyle and never let it get the best of you. If you're new to dialysis, the following comprehensive guide will be the thing you need to help you go through this challenging period with your head up high.
Talk to someone
While your body will inevitably feel the change of lifestyle and the effects of dialysis, your mind will get affected too. Many people who start their treatment start feeling weak as they begin to believe that they are not the same people that they used to be when they were healthy. If you ever start feeling like that, or less worthy in any way, talk to someone. Be it a friend, a person sitting next to you in the dialysis room or a nurse ready to listen to you, confiding in someone will make you feel better. Moreover, they can offer invaluable advice. Don’t let the thoughts and feelings overwhelm you because that will put you at risk of depression or anxiety, which will make the entire dialysis experience even more taxing.
Make the most of the treatment time
Dialysis treatments last for several hours. If the hospital is not close by, the commute plus the treatment can take the entire day. To prevent the feeling of wasted time, keep yourself occupied. During dialysis, one of your arms will have to stay still because the dialysis machine will be connected to your arm intravenously. However, you can use your other arm to read a book, write or doodle if that’s the hand you use for those purposes. Bring your tablet or mobile phone and spend time watching a film or working on your errands that you can do online. Talking to your friend or family is another way to prevent boredom or feeling alone.
Keep a journal
Are you having an array of thoughts swarming your mind when you need to go to or back from dialysis? Keeping a journal of your dialysis journey is one of the best ways to cope with this illness. Write down everything that you cannot handle at the moment. As soon as you transfer your thoughts to a piece of paper, you'll feel the load get off your chest. Sometimes it's best to materialize your thoughts, by putting them in front of you in your digital or physical notebook. Read them daily and go back to your previous experiences to learn how much you've grown over the months.
Don't be afraid to travel
Just because you’re having dialysis treatments several times a week doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be travelling. Thanks to online platforms such as Bookdialysis.com, you have the chance to travel safely without worrying about missing your treatment. Create an account and book a trip with Bookdialysis.com to have the most unforgettable vacation regardless of your dialysis commitment. You will have the chance to have your treatment whenever you need it and go back to exploring the world despite your condition. However, don’t feel too relaxed just because you will have a place to have dialysis at. That is especially true if you’re on a waiting list for a transplant. Don’t forget to inform the staff about your travelling plans and deliver all contact options from phone to email and phone call apps you can use abroad. Stock up on medicine because you don’t know if you’ll be able to get what you need wherever you travel to.
Stay disciplined about food
Kidneys are responsible for filtering all the toxins and expelling them from our bodies through urine. When your kidneys stop functioning well, the need for dialysis arises. That's why you need to modify your diet after starting the treatment. The foods and drinks we consume daily make a difference in how our bodies feel and look. From bloating to difficult digestion, even healthy people can't have any food lightly. For dialysis patients, this becomes even more challenging. Namely, the choice of foods and beverages is of the essence because it will affect the way you feel while making your treatments work better. It's vital to stay disciplined with foods and beverages and the amounts you're having. Depending on your diet, wastes in your blood can build up quicker or slower between dialysis sessions, causing you to feel sick if you overindulge in foods you shouldn’t be eating at all.
Some foods like tomatoes, cucumbers and bananas will be on the black list for dialysis patients because of their potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and water content. You shouldn't drink too much water between your dialysis treatments because your body won't be able to flush it out naturally. Try to sip water moderately and refrain from eating foods that would make you feel ill. The last thing you need is excess fluid built up in your body that can bring a series of problems such as difficulty breathing due to fluid build-up in your lungs, changes in blood pressure and swelling.
Hire a health attendant
Every person will react differently to dialysis. While some patients tend to be vigorous the next day, others’ health and energy could deteriorate. That's especially true for patients who urgently need a kidney transplant. When you become tied to your home and stop interacting much with the world outside, your mental health will suffer, as well. In those moments, it's best to have someone around to keep you company and help you with your daily activities. Hiring a health attendant will be the best choice as they are trained professionals who take good care of patients at home. Whether you need help bathing, going to the bathroom or assistance with taking medication, a health attendant will be there to offer company and all the help you need.
Learn about all the treatment side effects
The worst thing about suffering from a chronic disease is waking up one day to experience new side effects without initially knowing your disease is the reason for them. To prevent panic attacks and worries, research all the side effects that come with dialysis and take medication for kidney malfunction. Vomiting, nausea and low blood pressure are the most common side effects patients undergoing dialysis experience. Low blood pressure is the result of taking too much water between treatments. Restless leg syndrome, dry, itchy skin, muscle cramps in the lower legs, fatigue, an abdominal hernia, bone and joint pain, insomnia, weight gain, and anxiety are other side effects you may experience between dialysis treatments.
Join a support group
Have you considered looking up people suffering from the same illness as you? Talking to other people coping with dialysis will bring a new perspective to the entire experience and help you overcome your struggles. We all cope with problems differently, so it will be invaluable to hear other people's experiences, thoughts, and worries. Offering them your guidance while sharing your perspective will be beneficial for everyone, allowing you to bond and maybe even become good friends. Whether you decide to join an online chat or go to group meetings, talking to people who have gone through the same hardship will help your mental and emotional well-being.
Keep working out
Even though due to dialysis your body will feel weaker, you shouldn't stop being active. Allowing your body to rest after treatment is the best. However, the following day, you should go for a walk or a brisk cycling session. Consult your doctor on the activities that you'd benefit from and stick to their advice. Not only will regular exercise improve your self-esteem, but it will also keep you stimulated whilst giving you a chance to meet new people. It's vital to keep a healthy weight whilst undergoing dialysis. With regular physical activity, you'll succeed in that, while also strengthening your muscles and maintaining a positive mindset. Aside from cycling, leisure, and brisk walking, jogging and swimming are good choices of workouts.
Going back to work
Dialysis won't have the same effect on every patient, which means that some of you will be able to return to work eventually. When you're ready to start working, you'll need to discuss your disease openly with your employer. Inform them about all the key facts regarding your condition and be open to any questions they might have. Answer them as clearly as possible, and don't leave anything ambiguous. Make sure you return to work, only if you have written consent from your doctor stating that you're medically stable to work.
Take time to pray and meditate
Have you been experiencing anxiety or panic attacks? Whenever you feel too upset to function properly, try finding peace in meditation or prayer. Regardless of your religious beliefs, prayer will be therapeutic. To whomever you pray, you will find your centre, allowing your mind to settle and your body to feel tranquillity. Set up a meditation nook in your home with scented candles, diffusers, a Zen Garden and soothing sounds of the water feature. Spend some time every day meditating and reconnecting to yourself. Yoga is an excellent idea as it will allow you to improve your fitness whilst keeping you calm and focused.
Maintain important routines
Learning that your body isn’t as healthy as it should be at your age can become discouraging and unsettling. It will be one of the ground-breaking moments in your life that can transform the entire world around you. At those moments, it’s crucial to stick to familiar routines that make you feel happy. Finding out you’re sick comes with feelings of uncertainty and loss of control, which is why you need to enjoy activities that bring the sense of control back to you. Did you have your morning or evening routines before you started dialysis? Keep up with them despite your new schedule. Don't change the family schedule drastically, but try to modify it to your needs whilst sticking to activities you used to do together. Feel free to start new routines during the treatment and embrace the experience as something new and useful that will only help you feel better until you have a kidney transplant.
Living with kidney failure won't be easy, but you will be able to manage it quickly. Learning to cope with the fact that you have to spend a good portion of your week at a hospital can rock your confidence but shouldn't break your spirit. As long as you surround yourself with family and support, you'll have nothing to worry about. Share your thoughts with other dialysis patients, keep a journal, stick to a healthy diet and keep working out to make a life with dialysis more manageable than you thought it would be.