Helping a Loved One Through Kidney Transplant
Last updated: April 2023
Kidney transplant is a life-saving treatment for people with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) or kidney failure. And care partners are essential members of the transplant team.1-3
If you have a loved one who is pursuing a transplant, you will journey with them through evaluation, transplant, and aftercare. But you may feel thrust into the caregiver role suddenly. As a care partner, you need tools for helping your loved one through their transplant.1-3
The whole family is affected
CKD touches the entire family. New stressors enter the household, including dietary restrictions, treatment tasks, and transportation needs.1
For example, before their transplant, your loved one may do dialysis. Home dialysis requires a very clean space and frequent exchanges. This upsets home routines. Or you could spend a lot of time driving to and from the dialysis clinic. At times, being a care partner may feel like a taxi service. Your loved one may not be able to drive for many weeks or months.1
Whatever your loved one's treatment looks like, their CKD takes a toll on everyone in the household.1
Knowledge is power
The best tool for approaching a kidney transplant is education. Both you and your loved one need to know what a transplant involves. But the amount of information to process can feel overwhelming.1-4
As a care partner, you should attend appointments and ask questions. Do not rely on reports from your loved one. They may miss or forget things. Go with them, take notes, and write down questions. Your loved one will have many follow-up appointments, and this will be an ideal time to get to know their care team.1-4
Support equals success
Having an involved care partner will give your loved one the best chance of a successful transplant. Organ rejection is the biggest aftercare concern. But care partners increase good outcomes. You become the first line of defense when a loved one is recovering.2-4
A good organizational system is critical for a care partner. Here are some ways to help your loved one:2-4
- Maintain a schedule. This includes many drugs, post-operative appointments, and goals. Write out your loved one's drug schedule. Include how much of each drug to take, and at what time. Others can step in and help you if the schedule is easy to follow.
- Be attentive. You are with your loved one the most. You notice changes first – positive or worrisome. Reach out to your loved one’s doctor with questions or concerns.
- Help them maintain a healthy weight in recovery. This is important for transplant recipients. Go for walks or find another workout routine that they enjoy. Exercise is more fun with a buddy! But always clear a new workout routine with their doctor first.
- Celebrate progress. Recovery is long and slow. Remind your loved one of how far they have come.
Maintaining a clean environment is a must
Keeping germs away after a transplant is also vital. Your loved one must avoid infections, and you are the gatekeeper. Ensure that any visitors know and will follow these rules in your loved one's space:3-5
- Stay away if you have any signs of a cold, cough, flu, or other infection. This includes you as the care partner!
- Wash hands often and thoroughly. Use soap and water, and wash for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Dry hands with paper towels. Hand towels promote germs.
- Use care around pets. Prevent pets from scratching or biting your loved one because open wounds can lead to infections. Keep pets clean, and store litter boxes away from your loved one.
Encouragement is key
Some days, your loved one will feel discouraged. They may be moody, irritable, or depressed. They may worry about being a burden. They may feel anxious about the surgery and organ rejection.1-3
Your loved one needs your support and encouragement, so reassure them. Plan a fun activity. Hold their hand. Let them know you are there and that you care.1-3
Self-care will keep you going
While your loved one is going through the transplant process, do not neglect yourself. You need support too. Schedule time to do things that relax or refresh you. You might take a walk, read a book, or have coffee with a friend. Ask friends to visit your loved one or drive them to a doctor's appointment when you need a break.1,3
Is exercise an important part of your CKD management?