Traveling for Home Dialysis Patients

One of the primary benefits of home dialysis is the overall freedom and flexibility it offers. Traveling can be a challenge for people on dialysis, but recent advances in technology and services are now making domestic travel a more convenient and feasible option. While those on peritoneal dialysis have traditionally had an easier time traveling, many home hemodialysis patients now have more choices than ever before with the availability of equipment that is more portable, easy to set up and supported with supplies that can be delivered anywhere in the continental United States.

Traveling on peritoneal dialysis

Peritoneal dialysis (PD) patients typically have an easier time traveling because their treatments do not require access to a machine, and the necessary supplies are smaller and more portable. The primary requirement if you are traveling on PD is to pack an adequate amount of supplies and any necessary medications in a safe and easily accessible way. You should consider making a special first aid kit to carry with you that includes two days worth of essential supplies to help prepare for any unforeseen circumstances, such as a baggage delay when traveling by plane. You should also make certain that your carry-on baggage meets security and airline regulation well in advance.

Traveling on home hemodialysis

People on home hemodialysis (HHD) use varying of types of equipment. Traveling on HHD is most convenient for those using the NxStage-System One® machine, which is smaller and more portable than other machines. The NxStage machine can be checked on airplanes as baggage, so make sure to check with your training nurse about using specially designed hard or soft portable cases that can be purchased from the manufacturer. The use of a hard or soft case may depend on the specific aircraft you use when you fly, and it’s strongly recommended that you call your airline in advance to check on their policies and restrictions for carry-on baggage. If you use another type of HHD machine that cannot travel with you, or you do not want to travel with your equipment, your home dialysis care team can work with you to locate dialysis centers and coordinate visits for treatments while you’re away. It is recommended you coordinate these details with plenty of advance notice.

Tips for making your travel plans

With careful planning and preparation, many people on home dialysis can experience the freedom of traveling for business, pleasure or the holidays. Your individual travel needs will depend on your type of home dialysis treatment, and your dialysis team can help you through that process. The first step in planning a trip is to call your doctor and tell him about your travel plans. It is very important to keep your home dialysis care providers informed so they can ensure that it is safe for you to travel and assist with accommodations to make your travel as smooth and worry-free as possible. They can guide you on how to maintain your treatments while on the road, what to bring with you, how to schedule in-center appointments if needed, and much more. Following are additional tips to consider:

  • Regardless of your type of home dialysis treatment, having all the dialysis supplies you need is essential when you are "on the road." If you give your treatment provider a few weeks notice, you can usually have any necessary supplies shipped to your hotel, a relative’s house, or wherever you intend on staying. Even after these arrangements are made, it’s a good idea to be safe and include one or two day’s worth of extra supplies in your luggage. At this point, traveling for home dialysis patients is generally limited to staying within the continental United States due to equipment and supply shipping issues.
  • If you are traveling with your own equipment and supplies, it is still important to identify a few local dialysis centers near your travel destination just in case you need additional assistance or support. Most dialysis centers that you may visit will need information about your health, including your medical records and recent lab reports, insurance information and a list of the medications you take. Although you and your home dialysis care team may fax your dialysis records to a dialysis center ahead of time, it’s a good idea to pack your medical information in your carry-on luggage. For longer trips (generally, more than two weeks), you should talk with your doctors about setting up monthly checkups at a facility close to your destination.
  • Call your insurance carrier before traveling to find out what expenses are covered. Some private insurance groups don't allow travel or won't pay for travel outside their coverage area, so be sure to get this information before you leave on your trip.
  • If you have dietary restrictions, remember that many airlines do not provide meals, and airport shops and restaurants may not have healthy food options. When making your airline reservation, be sure to ask if the airline has special meals, such as diabetic, vegetarian or low fat options. It is advisable to bring your own diet-appropriate food and snacks for travel delays and long trips.
  • Patients with a manual wheelchair, an electric wheelchair or a scooter should notify your airline that you are traveling with these items and will need "maximum assistance" at the airport. It is important to ask the airline for specific information about their regulations regarding your type of wheelchair. When you arrive at the airline ticket counter, ask the attendant to "gate check" your wheelchair and obtain a luggage claim receipt for it. This will allow you to roll your wheelchair directly onto the plane where you can walk to your seat or transfer to an "aisle chair" for assistance to your seat. Don’t forget to notify your hotel as well so that you can request an accessible room.

Special dialysis travel packages

If you are on home dialysis and concerned about traveling alone or have a hard time planning a vacation, you can also choose from a number of vacation packages that cater specifically to dialysis patients. These vacations, including special cruises equipped with necessary dialysis equipment and medical staff, can provide an opportunity for those on dialysis and their families to get away without worrying about their medical needs.

Summary

Advances in technology and services have made HHD and PD more flexible than ever. With flexibility comes the freedom to hit the open road (or open skies, for some). Traveling for home dialysis patients, whether it’s for fun or business, is possible.

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