Supporting Your Home Dialysis Care Partner

If you are a home dialysis patient, it’s likely that you have a care partner or a special person in your life who helps you with your at-home treatments and your health condition. It’s often this person who helps you with dialysis and daily tasks. They may:

  • set up your home dialysis equipment
  • assist you with your home dialysis treatments
  • cook your meals
  • take you to your in-center checkups
  • run your errands
  • pick up your medications
  • love and support you

Although a care partner’s role may vary from patient to patient, one thing remains the same: Care partners need encouragement too.

Here are some simple ways to support and encourage your home dialysis care partner and let him or her know you care.

Give thanks

Although you may not be able physically or financially to do everything you want to thank your care partner for the endless support, you can start by simply saying
"thank you" every time he or she does something for you. It may seem like a small, insignificant gesture, but those two words are some of the nicest words to hear. No matter how many times your care partner does something for you throughout the day, remember to thank him or her verbally.

Other ways you can say thanks include sending thank you cards or leaving hand-written thank-you notes in places where your care partner will find them.

Lend a hand

Look for little ways to help your care partner out during the day. In the kitchen, give your care partner a "cooking break" by lending a hand every once in a while to give him or her a break. If you are physically unable to cook a meal, try thinking outside of the box. Order take-out from a local deli or restaurant. See if there are any groups in your area that offer personal chef services. These personal chefs will come into your home and prepare a meal or a number of meals for you. Recruit some neighborhood children to assist you in the kitchen, and pay them for their time. Most likely, they’ll be thrilled at the opportunity.

If your home dialysis care partner is the one who keeps the house clean, pitch in and offer to clean a part of the house for a month, or hire a cleaning service to clean it. If your care partner is responsible for mowing the lawn and keeping the yard looking neat, get a neighborhood kid to do it for a few dollars or, better yet, a plate of cookies.

You don’t have to do these things every week if you don’t have the resources, but doing them for your care partner every once in a while shows your support and appreciation.

Give your partner some space

Give your care partner space for activities or interests that you may not be able to participate in. Such activities might include going to a ball game, a movie or even a weekend trip. This may not always be possible if your medical needs require continuous help. However, there may be other family members or friends who can help out for a few hours or even days so your partner can take a break.

Laugh a little

Because end stage renal disease (ESRD) is part of your day every day, it may begin to weigh heavily on you and your care partner. Although you may think ESRD affects only your life, you have to remember that your health condition is a huge part of your care partner’s life as well. A great way to lighten things up and getting caught up in the seriousness of the disease is to share a good laugh.

Studies show that laughter is good for the heart, immune system and respiratory system. It also provides stress relief, pain relief and relaxation. Laughing with your care partner is a great way of relaxing and having fun. Share some jokes. Rent a funny movie. Go see a stand-up comedian. The gift of laughter can be shared in many ways. Whatever you do, make the decision to find something funny to laugh about with your home dialysis care partner every day.

Talk about it

Even though your partner cares for you on a daily basis and may never complain, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have things on his or her mind related to your care. Make it a point to talk to your care partner regularly about how he or she is doing. Is there anything that your care partner finds too hard or time-consuming, or that he would rather not do? Maybe you can pitch in and help out. Does your care partner want to start a new hobby or class that would require time away on a certain day? Maybe you can get someone else to help you out on those days.

Communication is very important in a relationship such as the one you have. The only way you will know how things are going with your care partner is to talk about it. Because your care partner may not want to bother or worry you with issues or concerns, make it your responsibility to ask and help make the relationship a happy one for both of you.

Give a gift

Getting your care partner a gift is a great way to show your appreciation for all he or she does for you and let him or her know you care. If you’d like to give a gift, listen for little things your care partner might mention wanting or liking. For example, if your care partner mentions that his or her watch broke the other day, consider getting a replacement.

If you want to give a gift but don’t want to spend too much money, consider your own talents. If you knit or scrapbook as a hobby, you may want to knit a scarf in your care partner's favorite colors or make a scrapbook.

Also, edible treats make great gifts. If you know your care partner loves your famous chocolate chip cookies, bake a batch from time to time. It’s a gesture that doesn’t require much time or money but shows that you pay attention to what he or she likes and that you value him or her.

Have some fun

To keep your care partner from feeling like his or her life revolves around your health condition, have some fun together. Even though the two of you probably spend plenty of time together during the day, ask yourself how much of that time is spent talking about, dealing with or planning for your dialysis treatments. If the answer is more than 50 percent, it’s time to have some fun.

There are plenty of ways to get your care partner’s mind off of caring for you and instead having a good time together. Take a walk. Have a picnic. Go see a movie. Take up a shared hobby. Do a puzzle. Play cards. Have a Scrabble® tournament. Throw a dinner party.

Whether you want to go all out or do something small, take some time to think about what your care partner likes to do, and plan something fun that you can do together. Also, when you’re out enjoying yourselves, try not to mention your health condition. Take this time to focus on your care partner.

Summary

Home dialysis care partners play a big part in the lives of patients with end stage renal disease (ESRD) who choose to do dialysis at home. Many times, care partners sacrifice their own time and hobbies to take care of you and make sure you have the love and support you need to be your healthiest. It’s important to remember, though, that care partners need support and encouragement too. Make it a priority to look for ways to show your care partner how much you appreciation and gratitude as well.

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