General considerations and quality of life
Once all important steps after diagnosis have been taken care of, you will steadily get accustomed to life with dialysis. As the initial feelings of confusion and fright are gone, it’s time to take control of your life again. With renal failure in particular, it is important to take a close look at your daily routine: What do I want to do? What challenges will I have to face, and what are my priorities in life? And furthermore, how can I organize myself so that I can meet my goals? Many patients feel tired following a dialysis session. Take it easy for the rest of the day. Normally, you will have your energy back the next day. After consulting with your doctor, you can enjoy sports, such as gymnastics, hiking, cycling and swimming, on dialysis-free days. In fact, you can pretty much do anything that makes you feel good. Sports are very beneficial; physical activity stimulates your metabolism and circulation. The following passage answers the most frequent questions about daily life with renal failure.
You are not just a patient
Time and treatment schedule
For most renal patients, treatment will change the course of daily life. With renal failure in particular, it is helpful to take a close look at your daily and weekly routine. Patients who undergo dialysis treatment purposely optimize their schedule to make better use of their time. Many renal care centers offer late and night shifts for patients who work during the day. Longer trips can be organized in advance to allow a healthy and relaxing holiday. Dialysis needs continuity to keep you healthy, but there is always a degree of flexibility to make your life work. Most important of all, time and energy will become much more important to you than before. Consider specifically: What things in life are important to me? What makes me feel happy and satisfied? Set your priorities and organize your life accordingly. A regular schedule will keep you strong and help you stay active. It is essential to develop confidence in your environment and in modern renal replacement therapy. Find out more about successful time management here.
How to organize your life
Carefully consider what quality of life means to you. At the same time, take a look at individual aspects of life and evaluate what is important to you: food and drink, exercise and fitness, travel and holidays, sexual relations, self-determination and flexibility, social contacts and occupation, etc. A positive feeling will certainly begin to emerge once you have defined your personal criteria for quality of life.
It is important to consider
Remember that your previous roles in life, e.g. as wife, husband, parent, friend or expert in your particular profession, are still there and remain important. Make a conscious effort to take care of them.
Maintain your hobbies and your everyday life. It’s also possible to engage in sports. Just make sure to consult with your doctor before you take part in any sports. Find some ideas here.
There are many things you can do to stay healthy. Make sure to take your medication as prescribed. Also follow the advice regarding foods and eating. There are lots of dishes that are healthy and tasty.
Many patients with renal failure go through difficult phases, usually at the onset of their condition as well as during its course. Although some people can mobilize their energy and resolve the situation on their own, many people need support.
Remember: Your family, friends and the staff in your renal care center are always available and there for you if you need help. Stay in close contact – they will support and advise you. Also, take advantage of opportunities to get in touch with other affected people, for example in self-help groups or patient communities.
Dialysis and healthy lifestyle
In addition to medical therapy, a healthy lifestyle is essential for keeping you healthy and maintaining your overall well-being. A healthy lifestyle involves a wide range of factors which all together let you live your life to the full, both physically and psychologically. Healthy living, for example, includes activities with friends and family, eating the right foods and taking exercise whenever you can. Which diet or physical fitness activity is right for you depends on several factors, such as your likes and dislikes, the stage of renal failure or the type of treatment you are receiving. It’s important to be aware of your lifestyle choices and to make choices that will let you feel your best.
Fitness and dialysis
Exercise is the best medicine! And the same also applies to people who have renal failure. Regular exercise not only allows you to enjoy life more, it also improves blood pressure, metabolism, and usually helps to maintain an ideal weight as well. The staff at the renal care center is ready to assist with useful tips on staying fit, even with simple exercises you can do during dialysis. Physical activity in the form of regular walks or other sports should become a part of daily routine. Just make sure to consult with your healthcare team before starting any new activities.
Food and nutrition
Studies show that eating the right kinds of food can play a major role in the protection and maintenance of many of the body’s vital systems. For dialysis patients, this is even more important. A healthy diet is truly essential for you as a dialysis patient. But this does not mean your diet has to be bland and boring. There are still plenty of delicious foods that can be included on the menu. Because your kidneys do not function at full capacity, you may need to be careful with certain types of food, but your healthcare team will advise you on how to handle such matters. You will also likely have to restrict the amount of fluids that you drink to feel well and to manage your dialysis treatment successfully. You can try our Renal Care Compass App here.
Nutrition and fitness
Frequently asked questions: living with dialysis
Frequently asked questions
Is driving a risk?
Renal failure has no effect on your ability to drive. However, if you are suffering from heart problems or impaired vision as a result of the disease or feel unwell after treatment, then ask your doctor for advice.
How about exercise and sport? Are there any don'ts?
Your general health will benefit from regular exercise. Many people with renal failure say exercise was the key to helping them feel "normal" again after they started dialysis treatments. Before beginning any exercise program, please consult your doctor for approval so that he can determine the "right" kind of exercise for you. The exercise program should meet your special needs and interests. Learn how exercise can help you feel better physically and be more in control of your emotions.
To help me keep healthy can I exercise?
Of course you can exercise. Now this is depend upon how fit you are and what you were able to do before you needed dialysis. If you never ran a marathon before, it is unlikely that you will be able to run one now! But any form of exercise, no matter how gentle, will make you feel better, and will help to keep you healthy. Research has shown that a regular exercise program, even if it is a limited one, not only makes you fitter, but also improves your overall quality of life.
What sort of exercise can I do?
This depends on what you were able to do before needing dialysis. But the first starting point is to discuss this question with your care team, and also to start off gently. Walking, swimming and cycling are all very good at helping to keep you fit. Some people also find yoga classes to be very helpful. There are lots of choices available to you. Look around for local groups you can join, and don’t forget to ask you local Kidney Patients Association.
Walking, for example, has been found to:
- Help with digestion
- Increase energy levels
- Reduce cholesterol level
- Help to control blood pressure and blood sugar
- Lower the risk of heart disease
- Help you sleep better
- Help to decrease stress
How about smoking? Is it allowed to smoke?
Studies have shown that smoking is harmful. Smoking puts a strain on the heart and blood vessels. If you are undergoing dialysis, then you should stop smoking.
How about sexual relationships?
The physical and emotional changes caused by renal failure can also affect your sex life. Sexual appetite and sexual activity can be reduced as a result. Men may experience impotence at the beginning of dialysis treatment. Talk to your doctor about this. Such problems can usually be easily resolved by adjusting your medication. Women are generally able to have children in spite of kidney disease. However, careful risk assessment and close coordination with your doctor is essential.
How does the condition affect my job?
Being on dialysis does not automatically mean that you must stop working. Many patients with renal failure work full- or part-time. If your doctor agrees and you feel well enough, you should continue to work. To a large extent, your treatment plan can be adapted to suit your needs.
Can dialysis patients who are students continue to study?
In general, you will be able to continue studying. Please discuss your needs with the dialysis team and they will try to accommodate your dialysis sessions to fit in with your course of study.
I sometimes feel very “down and fed up”. Is this normal?
Unfortunately feelings of depression and anxiety are common in patients on dialysis. Many patients experience mood swings when they have started dialysis, which you and your family may sometimes find difficult to deal with. One of the most helpful things you can do is understand that these feelings are real, and need to be shared. You do not have to deal with this on your own. Approach your care team about your anxiety, and they will be able to help you. Some people also find it useful to talk to other patients, and see how they have coped. So you can also contact your local Kidney Patients Association. Expressing your feelings is healthy, and is important so your family can help you, too. Remember, a chronic disease like kidney failure affects both you and your loved ones. But don’t take your anger out on your family, or make them feel guilty about your illness. Talk to your care team. There is plenty of help that they can give you. It is important for you to find a way to cope with the difficulties of dialysis so that you can lead a fulfilling life outside of dialysis.
If I am not coping who can I talk to?
The renal care center will always have qualified nursing and medical staff with whom you can raise your concerns. Also there will be links with social workers, psychologists and dieticians if you have more specific needs. There are self-help groups available. All of the staff have a wealth of experience and will be able to listen to you and help. There are thousands of patients who have successfully passed through the difficult early stages of renal failure. The important thing is to remember you do not have to cope with this alone.