Could You Be a Home Hemodialysis Care Partner?

Successful home hemodialysis (HHD) requires two people: the person with stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD), or end stage renal disease (ESRD), and the care partner. Both must be trained well and highly motivated. However, being a care partner may not be right for everyone. Before making this important decision, find out if what is required to become an effective home hemodialysis care partner.

Who usually becomes the care partner for home hemodialysis patients?

Generally, a person with kidney disease will choose a spouse or other family member to assist with HHD. However, care partners can be neighbors, close friends or professional caregivers trained to provide medical care.

A care partner — whether a spouse, friend or professional — must be committed to assisting with HHD treatments. In addition, he or she must be prepared to help solve any problems that come up during home dialysis treatments.

Characteristics of a good home hemodialysis care partner

A good home hemodialysis care partner has a positive relationship with the patient. Also, a care partner should be calm, have patience and react well in case of a crisis. Because training is involved, care partners should be highly motivated to learn the skills necessary to perform HHD. Care partners should be comfortable around medical equipment and the procedures involved in home dialysis. Many people with an initial fear of needles or discomfort around the sight of blood can often overcome this by a participation in a solid training program. However, someone with a medical phobia in one of these areas you may not be up for the task as a care partner.

Care partners should be willing and able to make the time commitment required to assist with home dialysis. Keep in mind, care partners usually have to adjust their normal routines. For this reason, some of the best candidates for care partners have flexible schedules and good time management skills.   

Home hemodialysis training for care partners

Care partners go through the same training as home dialysis patients. During training, the nurse and other training staff members provide instruction on how to perform safe, effective home hemodialysis. Depending on the needs of the patient and the equipment used, learning the required skills takes an average of three to six weeks.

During training, home hemodialysis patients and care partners learn how to:

  • Set up dialysis equipment and perform safety tests
  • Perform hemodialysis treatments
  • Insert needles into the patient’s vascular access
  • Keep accurate treatment records
  • Maintain a sanitary environment
  • Order and store dialysis supplies
  • Troubleshoot dialysis problems
  • Solve patient complications, such as low blood pressure or muscle cramps
  • Tackle dialysis problems, such as a dialyzer blood leak

During home hemodialysis training, care partners should pay close attention, take notes and speak up if something isn’t clear to them. At the beginning of training, care partners and patients will observe the home training nurse and learn the process. As they learn what to do, they will gradually take on more responsibility. Eventually, the patient and care partner will do the dialysis treatments completely on their own, while the training nurse observes.

It’s normal for care partners to be a little nervous at first, especially if they have never been around medical equipment. However, the new generation of hemodialysis machines is easy to set up, clean and disinfect. And the home hemodialysis training is comprehensive. After a few home dialysis treatments, the care partner and patient usually find a comfortable routine that works well for both.

The benefits of being a home hemodialysis care partner

If you become a home hemodialysis care partner, you’ll make a significant contribution to the patient’s quality of life. Your presence means the person with kidney disease can dialyze in the comfort of his or her home. In addition, home dialysis can make it possible to dialyze more frequently or for longer periods of time, which is associated with many medical and lifestyle benefits, including:

  • A more positive attitude and outlook on life
  • A diet with fewer restrictions
  • Better control of blood pressure
  • Improved sleep
  • Less fatigue and nausea
  • Less need for medications
  • Fewer hospitalizations
  • Enhanced ability to travel

Summary

Home hemodialysis can bring about both medical and lifestyle benefits. To achieve these benefits, though, the dialysis patient must have a reliable and well-trained care partner to assist with HHD treatments. A potential HHD care partner should understand what it takes to be a care partner and how important a care partner is to the patient’s overall quality of life.

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