Dialyzing While in a Pandemic
As a health care provider for dialysis patients for twenty-five years, I can only imagine what might be going through the minds of patients during this time. Between watching the news and scrolling through social media, the level of uncertainty within our communities is running high. Dialysis treatments cannot stop and fears may range from possible hospitalizations to potential limited access to food.
All of this may be overwhelming – which is totally understandable and OK. Your dialysis care team is here to provide support and tips to help lower your chances of exposure to COVID-19 and keep you safe.
Patients receiving dialysis need to take necessary precautions to prevent contracting the virus and avoid possible complications and hospitalization.
Managing Emotional Health and Stress
Here are some tips on what you can do to help manage your emotional health and stress.
Dialysis centers remain open because dialysis is an essential treatment.
- Nurses and patient care technicians (PCTs) continue to come to work to make sure schedules at dialysis centers continues as usual and provide safe care to help prevent hospitalizations.
- Registered dietitians continue to review your labs and make sure that you are doing everything possible to keep good blood chemistry results, avoid fluid overload, to stay strong, healthy and well nourished. These things may help to prevent hospitalizations.
- Social workers continue ensuring that you are able to manage any emotional, financial or lifestyle impacts during this time. They are trained counselors and also have expertise in connecting patients to needed assistance (such as food, medication and/or insurance/employment resources). Again, these things may help with your quality of life and keep you healthy and out of the hospital.
- Facility Administrators and management teams will continue to work with centers so they can remain open and have the staffing and supplies they need, so your health care team can continue to provide timely and safe dialysis.
- Make sure you have the foods you need for at least two weeks. Stocking up means you or your caregivers do not have to go to the store as often. If you do not have transportation to get groceries or medications, reach out to family and neighbors, or go online to order what you need.
- Refill your medications before running out and take them as prescribed.
- Wear a face mask if you venture out.
- Wash your hands when you return home or after touching anything outside. These actions may help prevent hospitalizations
If you receive dialysis at home (peritoneal dialysis or home hemodialysis), here are some specific recommendations:
- Make sure you have all the supplies you need to do home treatments.
- Make an inventory list and be conscious of not wasting resources.
- Follow proper infection control practices such as washing your hands often to help prevent infection.
It is a good time to start (if you have not already) eating healthy meals every day, which may help you stay strong.
- Ask your dietitian about the foods that are best for your individual needs.
- Try to eat/cook all your perishable foods first, such as fresh lean meats and fresh produce.
- If you do not know how to cook, this is a good time to learn, visit DaVita.com for recipes and kidney diet tips.
- Use a slow cooker if you have to work at home or outside. Your meal will be ready in 6 to 8 hours.
- Follow your dietary restrictions, such as low potassium, low phosphorus and low sodium.
- Watch fluid intake more closely to avoid fluid overload. Eating less processed or fast food will help reduce sodium intake and may help with thirst and fluid control.
Keep Your Mind and Body Busy
Staying busy may help you improve and manage your emotional health. Here are a few examples of how to do this:
- Take walks by yourself, your significant other, child or pet. Remember to wear a mask.
- Do stretching and breathing exercises at home, such as yoga, tai-chi or other exercises. There are free online classes.
- If you have weights, use them to exercise at home.
- If you like dancing play your favorite tunes and dance. That is exercise!
- Pick up a new or former hobby.
- Read a good book. Ask neighbors or borrow books from nearby relatives as libraries may be closed.
- Listen to audio books or podcasts.
- Write in a journal – your thoughts, hopes, daily diet, genealogy tree…write anything, use pencil, pen, a typewriter or computer!
- Learn a new language.
- Learn to sew, knit or crochet.
- Paint with anything you have, colored pencils, crayons, paint, etc.
- Play cards or learn to play bridge or poker.
- Try Sudoku, puzzles, crosswords, etc.
- Learn to play chess or other games you already have.
- Sing or pick up an old instrument you know how to play, or learn how to play if you have an instrument at home.
- Try cooking new dishes. Create new recipes with the ingredients you have at home.
- Catch up with old TV shows or watch a whole season in one week.
- Spring clean.
- Clean your closet and select clothes you have not worn in years to donate.
- Pick up a box of pictures and organize them, put in an album if you have one.
- Pull weeds outside if it is sunny and nice.
- Connect with others.
- Talk to your family members or neighbors and old friends, keeping distance or by phone, Talk via Face Time, Skype, or similar apps. Get in touch. You may find that others are feeling lonely, too.
- Write and send letters to loved ones who are out of town.
- Look to the future.
- Make a list of everything you would like to do after this pandemic is over.
- Plant herbs, chilies or vegetables. Some home garden stores are still open. Seeds may be ordered online.
I wish you the best! Stay home as much as possible. Do not miss dialysis treatments and do what you can to improve your health. You have the power to live strong. Make plans for what you are going to do when the restriction to stay at home is over. I hope that by 2021 we have learned a great deal about our world and ourselves. Be safe and stay as healthy as possible.
Additional Kidney Diet Resources
Visit DaVita.com and explore these diet and nutrition resources:
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.