Tips for Adjusting to Life on Dialysis

Starting dialysis treatment can require a big lifestyle adjustment. However, there are a few things you can do to create an easier transition to dialysis and begin feeling better.

Take your medicines, take control

People on dialysis often take quite a few medications, and the timing of when they’re taken truly matters. For instance, you may be prescribed phosphate binders to take when you eat and a renal vitamin that should be taken at night or after your treatment. To make following a daily routine easier to swallow, make sure you:

  • Listen and learn: Make a list of your medications, including over-the-counter vitamins and supplements, and talk to your health care team about why each one was prescribed, when they should be taken and the vital role they play in your kidney care.
  • Work with a pharmacist that understands: When you start dialysis, your prescriptions for other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, may need to change. Pharmacists that specialize in kidney care can be extremely helpful in determining this. They can perform a thorough medication review and help ensure you’re not taking any prescriptions inappropriate for kidney failure patients.
  • Stay organized: Try using a plastic medication organizer and take each medication at the same time every day (unless directed otherwise). Another great tip is to associate taking your medicine with other daily events like watching your favorite TV program or going to bed.
  • Stick to it: If you experience side effects, speak with your physician before you stop taking any medications. Also, avoid running out of medication by refilling prescriptions on time.

Know your medicine cabinet

Getting familiar with kidney disease medications and adhering to a recommended regimen can play a crucial role in keeping you healthy. See a list of common prescriptions and supplements for people with kidney disease.

Medications to avoid include over-the-counter pain pills such as ibuprofen, naproxen and some supplements that can damage kidneys.

Adopt the dialysis diet

There are two things to know about the dialysis diet: First, it’s different from the food choices you may usually make and, second, it's best to ease into the changes. Some people on the dialysis diet start focusing on what they can’t eat. While there are certainly foods and beverages to avoid, remember that following dialysis nutrition guidelines is a way to take control of your health and have a better quality of life. Think of the dialysis diet as an opportunity to try new things. Exploring delicious recipes like ones on, planning meals and sharing them with your family is something that can be fun and enjoyable.

Prepare yourself and your health care team

One of the most important things you can do to ease your transition to dialysis is to keep everyone on your health care team informed. Your primary care doctor, diabetes doctor, cardiologist—they’ll all need to know when you start dialysis as it may affect your labs, health goals and potential medications they prescribe.

Think of this transition in your life as an opportunity to take control of your health like never before. Use tools such as, the DaVita Health Portal and the Diet & Nutrition tools on, all of which can help you adjust to this new way of life. Learning as much as you can about your treatment, your diet and medications and remaining dedicated to making healthful choices can be a truly empowering experience.