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Home Hemodialysis: Your First Year

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician.

Your first year - especially your first few months - on home hemodialysis (HHD) will be a time of adjustment. Whether you are changing from another form of treatments or you are entirely new to dialysis, life will be a bit different from what is was before. However, most patients experience improvements in their quality of life and HHD can allow you to maximize your potential. You may be excited to be in control of your dialysis treatment. You should enjoy the freedom of dialyzing at home. And, you will go through some adjustments as you get used to your treatment schedule and how it fits into your everyday life.

Knowing what to expect during your first year on HHD will help make the adjustment period smooth and carefree. Here are some ways in which HHD may affect the different areas of your life.

Home hemodialysis and your daily schedule

Depending on the HHD schedule you and your doctor decide on, you may choose to shift some of your daily activities to allow for your dialysis treatments. For example, if you select short daily or traditional HHD, you can plan your daily activities around your dialysis treatment schedule.

Because of the choices you have when it comes to HHD, you can easily fit your dialysis treatments into your day and still have time for work, school, running errands, spending time with your family, doing yard work and more. By this time you may consider these changes as your daily routine.

You should also be able to keep up your current exercise regimen or start one. HHD patients should have no problem doing mild to moderate forms of exercise such as walking, yoga, cycling and golf. In addition, many HHD patients are able to participate in high-impact exercise routines such as weight lifting, hiking, swimming and running. Check with your doctor before participating in such activities.

If you currently work a part-time or full-time job, home hemodialysis should not interfere with your ability to continue working. If you are not currently working, HHD may give you the energy and time to begin working. During the training process, which can take from three to eight weeks, you will need to work out a schedule with your employer that allows for your in-center training sessions. After your training is complete and you begin your home treatments, you can simply work your dialysis treatments in around your work schedule. For example, you can choose to wake up early in the morning and dialyze before work, or you can choose to dialyze in the afternoon or evening when you get home.

Home hemodialysis and your self-image

As an HHD patient, you will need vascular access surgery to create an access in your arm. This access is necessary so that blood can flow from your body to the dialyzer to be cleansed. It may take you a while to get used to having an access in your arm. Because a vascular access can be visible, it may affect the type of clothing you are comfortable wearing. Most hemodialysis patients quickly become comfortable with their vascular access as they realize it is their lifeline to freedom and the improved clinical outcomes that are possible with HHD.

Home hemodialysis and your energy level

Most people on home dialysis see an improvement in their energy levels, which is often due to more frequent or longer dialysis treatments. However, some patients may experience energy levels that rise and fall. This could happen for several reasons including anemia, lack of exercise or poor nutrition.

If you find that your energy levels vary, talk with your doctor. He or she may be able to come up with a solution that gives you more energy.

Home hemodialysis and your home

You will need to make room in your home to store your home hemodialysis supplies. Storing medical supplies can make your home feel a bit crowded in the beginning. However, as you become familiar with the supply delivery process and your treatments, you will be able to regulate your supplies more easily so that they take up less room.

In addition to supplies, you will also need to find a place for your dialysis machine. This is the machine that will clean your blood. Your dialysis machine may be placed next to your bed if you are more comfortable lying down during treatment. Or you may choose to place your dialysis machine next to a chair or couch.

If it bothers you to see your HHD equipment on your nightstand or near your favorite recliner, try thinking of it in a different way. Try not to view your dialysis machine as a medical device but a machine that allows you to live the full life you deserve to live. Thinking about your supplies and equipment in a positive way and being thankful for the benefits of home dialysis can help you accept these changes to your home.

Summary

People on home hemodialysis experience more freedom in their daily lives, have more control over their treatments and report having an overall better quality of life than in-center dialysis patients. While there may be some changes you have to make during your first year on HHD, the period of adjustment will be worth it once you begin to experience the many medical and lifestyle benefits of this home modality.

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