Home Dialysis and Employment

If you are thinking about home dialysis as a treatment option—whether it’s peritoneal dialysis (PD) or home hemodialysis (HHD)—and wondering how your work fits in, you may be pleasantly surprised. Studies show that people on dialysis who remain in the workforce may experience a lower rate of depression1 and score higher on general health and vitality tests.2 Continuing to work can help people maintain their income and health insurance provided through their employer, as well as help them maintain their self-esteem and friendships.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when considering working on home dialysis.

1. Explore the flexibility of home dialysis

Choosing a home dialysis treatment may make it easier to work regular hours while on dialysis by providing you with a more
flexible treatment schedule.

2. Prepare your employer and coworkers

It’s likely that your employer and coworkers may not know much about chronic kidney disease (CKD) or dialysis. If you are comfortable doing so, you can help them understand what you are going through by taking some time to educate them, but keep in mind you are not required to disclose the type of condition you have.

3. Perform PD in the workplace

If you choose PD, you may need to perform an exchange of dialysis fluid during the day. You will need a clean, private room to do a safe, hygienic fluid exchange without interruption or interference. Seek permission from your office supervisor and have all your supplies stored in that location, including the dialysis fluid, mask and mini cap. Consider discussing this plan with your PD nurse, who can give you advice about how best to accomplish this. 

4. Make accommodations at work

Monthly doctor’s visits may require time away from work. Check with your human resources department about any necessary documentation for taking time off for scheduled appointments. Some employers may require documentation signed by your kidney doctor (nephrologist).

5. Know your limitations

Recognize your limits in the workplace. Pay attention to your body and recognize when a task or a workload requires too much. Beware of working too hard or for too long. While your job may be important to you, your health should be a top priority. There may be certain tasks that you are simply unable to do because of your health conditions. Consult with your physician to understand any limitations you may have and discuss these limitations with your supervisor and human resources department to help avoid illness or injury.

If you’re already working full time and find that your current work schedule is too much, here are some additional options you may want to discuss with your supervisor:

  • Part-time work
  • Sick leave
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Company short-term disability
  • Working from home
  • Changing your job responsibilities

6. Know your rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Titles I and V, states that if an employer has 15 or more employees, he or she must accommodate employees with disabilities. Know that you are not required to tell your employer what kind of disability you have. However, you do have to let your employer know that you have a disability so that they can work with you to accommodate your needs. There may be additional information and paperwork required by your employer to understand the nature of your accommodations.

Also, understand what an employer can and cannot ask of you. For instance, an employer can ask you to fill out a health form, but only after he or she has offered you a job. They can also ask you to take a drug test, in which case you can request a hair or blood test if you do not produce urine.

As an employee with kidney disease, you have rights that can help you stay employed. Ask your nephrologist to recommend a social worker who can explain your employee rights and help you take steps to exercising them, including how to approach your human resources department to learn about your employer’s sick leave policy, disability insurance and your eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

If you choose to work while on dialysis, it’s important to remain committed to taking proper care of yourself. Speak with your loved ones and care team to see if working on home dialysis is right for you.

1. Depressed Mood, Usual Activity Level, and Continued Employment after Starting Dialysis. Nancy G. Kutner, Rebecca Zhang, Yijian Huang, and Kirsten L. Johansen, 2012. 2. Dialysis Patients’ Mental Health Linked To Heart Health And Longevity. Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN). April 2012. Ea Wha Kang, MD, PhD, from the Ilsan Hospital in Gyeonggi-do, Korea and Mark Unruh, MD, from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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

Find a DaVita home dialysis program

Are you interested in finding a peritoneal dialysis (PD) or home hemodialysis (HHD) program near you? Call DaVita Guest Services at 1-800-244-0582 or find a center with a home dialysis program nearest you.

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