As with the majority of treatments for kidney disease and failure, patients have the option to include home hemodialysis as part of their daily regimen. The ability to maintain a life outside of a dialysis center can almost inspiring for some patients, especially those that feel as though their independence is being hindered by their treatments.
However, because hemodialysis is going to be taking place in someone’s home, the patient and his/her caregiver (if applicable) will be responsible for maintaining the treatment. This is no small task, and while it does grant a patient a major boost in confidence because they are a part of the process, it does ask a lot of them as well.
Before deciding that home hemodialysis is right for you, consider the following:
1. The history of hemodialysis does lend itself to having a place at a patient’s home. Within ten years of hemodialysis being used as a treatment, nearly half of these patients received treatment at home. For a patient considering home treatment, this is good to hear.
2. There will be an initially large amount of anxiety for involved in the process. Remember, many of the patients taking on their hemodialysis at home do not have a background in medicine. Their caregiver, who is usually a spouse, also may not have medical experience, so both of you will experience some level of hesitation and worry about making sure everything goes right so as to not make the patient vulnerable.
3. There is less social interaction experienced by patients who manage their hemodialysis at home. Dialysis centers are set up for the comfort of patients who, at times, must be at the center multiple times a week for hours at a time. It becomes a new normal, however, and patients sitting next to one another become close because they have a common bond. Patients receiving treatment at home may either interact with their caregiver or, if they live alone, possibly no one unless they receive visitors.
4. Per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), “Hemodialysis is a treatment for kidney failure that uses a machine to filter your blood outside your body.” In short, this treatment is necessary for your kidneys to do their job, which is essential to you staying alive. You and/or your caregiver will also need to undergo weeks of training to make sure you can handle treatments at home. There is a major ‘if’ attached to that because if you and/or your caregiver cannot handle the steps in treatment, then a safe environment cannot guaranteed.
5. The law requires that patients must be notified that they have a choice regarding at-home hemodialysis treatment. They must receive information regarding where they can go to receive training on the process, as well as where they can receive general education on treatment options.
Home hemodialysis can be a fitting way for a patient becoming accustomed to a new way of life to feel as though they still have independence and are not being hindered by their kidney failure. However, this independence does have quite a large amount of responsibility, and it is the job of all parts of the healthcare team, including the patient, to understand this responsibility and choose the treatment option that is optimal for their health.