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3 Ways to Start a Life Plan When You Have Kidney Disease

By Dr. Martin Schreiber, VP Clinical Affairs, Home Dialysis. From LifeLines at Home newsletter

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” When you live with a chronic condition like end stage renal disease (ESRD), there is much wisdom in creating something called a Life Plan. I became interested in life planning several years ago after reading about it and being inspired by my car’s navigation system that’s specifically designed to help me get from Point A to Point B.

What is a Life Plan?

A Life Plan is a treatment plan based on your medical and personal needs. It is developed by you, your loved one(s) and your medical caregivers to help you succeed in living with kidney disease.

Think of a Life Plan as a type of navigation system for your life. If you know your destination, or goals—such as getting a kidney transplant, going back to school, etc.—a Life Plan can provide step-by-step guidance to help you get there.

Creating your Life Plan

First, sit down and think about your goals. What do you want to accomplish in the next month, six months, year, five years and so on? These goals provide the framework for your Life Plan.

Next, identify a care partner or sponsor who can help you create and stick to your Life Plan. It could be a spouse, friend or other family member.

Below are the three steps to help you build your own Life Plan with your kidney care team. Even with kidney disease, you can do more than survive—you can thrive!

Step 1: Tell your nephrologist (kidney doctor) about your wish to create a Life Plan. You will need help from him/ her, and the rest of your care team, to create your Life Plan. Before your visit, make a chart showing which of your doctors is responsible for each aspect of your health, and bring it with you. (Bring your care partner, too, if possible.) Go over the chart with your nephrologist and make adjustments as necessary.

Step 2: Talk to your nephrologist about other factors that can affect your health. These include age, medical status, comorbidities (other illnesses or conditions you may have, kidney-related or not), and dialysis treatment options vs. a transplant. Make sure your nephrologist knows which treatment option you prefer and why.

Step 3: Talk to your doctor about actions you can take to improve your health. Talk about lifestyle choices that could negatively impact your health, such as poor diet, continuing to smoke, being careless about your medications, etc. Discuss how positive lifestyle changes could improve your health.

These steps should help you on your way to creating your Life Plan. Remember that communication is key, so keep your care team and your loved one informed along the way. Also keep your goals in sight—they are powerful motivators for taking charge of your health.