The Importance of Home Dialysis Support Networks

One of the most important parts of your home dialysis care team is your support network. Your support network is made up of the people in your life who encourage you, assist you, love you, make you laugh, keep you active and do their best to make sure you are supported on every level. This support network could be made up of family, friends, coworkers, teachers, bosses, other dialysis patients and even pets.

Why support networks are important

  • Increased energy - The people in your support network are the ones who will call you up for a dinner date, take you out for breakfast, invite you to a ball game or come over with snacks and a movie. You need these people in your life to keep you active, and being active often increases the amount of energy you have in your daily life.

  • Increased knowledge - Support networks can help you find information about kidney disease and dialysis, as well as support you emotionally. Many end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients join online support networks or meet with other ESRD patients in their area. These support networks provide opportunities to learn more about living with ESRD. You can also get tips and advice from other patients on challenges that you face.

  • Improved disposition - Many ESRD patients without a support network spend their days sitting at home alone. This can wreak havoc on your emotional state. End stage renal disease (ESRD) is a life-altering disease and without a support network of people to talk to, it can be overwhelming. One of the benefits of having a strong support network that you can socialize with is an improvement in your disposition and overall emotional health.

  • Improved clinical outcomes - Having a support network of people in your life can make you happy, lead to positive thinking, motivate you to be active and empower you to learn about and be involved in your healthcare. All of these things can lead to improved clinical outcomes. Active, energetic, optimistic patients generally have better clinical results than patients who are inactive and pessimistic.

How to build a strong support network

  • Talk - If you want to have a group of people in your life who are willing to support you physically and emotionally, you first have to tell them about your health condition. While it may be hard to confide in people, communication is the foundation of a strong support network. Find a time to talk to the people in your life about your health condition in a way that you and they are comfortable with. This is the first step in building your support network.

  • Educate
    Once you have told the people in your life that you have end stage renal disease (ESRD), you may have to educate them on what exactly it is. Most people are not familiar with the specifics of it, so educating them on how it will affect your life can be helpful. If you educate your support network about dialysis, your kidney diet, your treatment schedule and anything else you think is important, they will be better equipped to assist and support you.

  • Update - Update the people in your support network on a regular basis about how you are doing. If you find out some bad news from your doctor, let them know so they can be there to support you. Likewise, if you learn something good, tell them so they can help you celebrate.

  • Invest - Invest time and energy in your support network. The people in it are there for you when you need them. You should be there for them, as well. Spend time with them. Celebrate the joys in their lives. Support them when they need your help. Give them a call for no reason other than to see how they are. Make sure that all of your conversations do not revolve around you and your health. Find ways to thank them for being there for you.

  • Research - If you don’t have a large family, don’t work and don’t live in an area where you know a lot of people, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong support network. Search online to see if there are any ESRD support groups in your area that you can be a part of. Join online forums, such as DaVita.com/Forum, where you can talk with other ESRD patients. If you are religious, check with your congregation leader for additional resources. Ask your nurse or doctor for ideas on how you can meet other patients. 

Summary

Having a support network of people in your life who love and care about your well-being is very important. There are many online and community resources for ESRD patients looking to connect with others. Talk to the people in your life today and begin building your support network.

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