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Caregiving For Someone With Chronic Kidney Disease

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2023

Being a caregiver to a friend or loved one with chronic kidney disease (CKD) can be very difficult. When you are a caregiver to someone with CKD, you may provide support in many ways while they are coping with a diagnosis, receiving dialysis, or preparing for a kidney transplant.1,2

Being a caregiver can be demanding at times. But there are also opportunities to grow closer to your loved one through this life-changing experience.1,2

What CKD caregivers provide

Being a caregiver to someone with CKD can change your life in many ways, including:1,2

  • Your daily routine
  • Your work and finances
  • Your physical and mental health
  • Your emotional wellbeing
  • Your connection with one another

Your responsibilities may also change over time. As a caregiver, here are some things you may be responsible for:1,2

  • Coordinating medical care
  • Keeping track of side effects, medicines, questions, and personal needs
  • Transportation to and from appointments and treatment sessions
  • Taking care of everyday tasks like shopping, meal prep, cleaning the house, paying bills, helping with grooming and dressing
  • Providing physical and emotional support
  • Being your loved one’s advocate or spokesperson

Adjust to your new normal

There will be a period of transition that you both likely will have to navigate. At first, certain logistical changes may be needed. Developing a consistent routine can help a lot with adjusting to these changes, especially at first. Changes may include:1

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  • Getting new medical care
  • Going to more doctor’s appointments
  • Delivering new treatments
  • Adapting daily schedules

Be open to the concept that your life will change. This can help as you transition into the role of a caregiver.1

Process and communicate your emotions

It is completely normal to have feelings of overwhelm, anger, resentment, and/or grief over your new role as a caregiver. You are not alone. Adjusting emotionally to being a caregiver and watching a loved one deal with kidney disease takes time. Be patient with yourself.1,2

When you are ready, communicate what you are feeling with the person you are caring for. It may help relieve some of the emotional weight you have been carrying. It could also bring you closer together.1

Adopt a team approach

The person you are caring for may be in varying stages of kidney disease. They may be newly diagnosed and adjusting to a new diet or therapy to maintain their existing kidney function. They may be on dialysis. Or they may be waiting for a kidney transplant.

Whatever stage they are in, approaching their health management as a team is vital. Working together to problem-solve can improve their health outcomes and your relationship. And if you need additional support, do not hesitate to rely on outside help.1

Reach out for help

Being a caregiver can be draining – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Depression, anxiety, and feelings of burden are common among CKD caregivers. This is especially true for caregivers who are women.1,2

You may be the primary caregiver, but remember that you cannot do everything all the time. That can lead to burnout. Seek support if you need it. Do not be afraid to reach out for help from:1

  • Medical team members
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Therapist and counselors
  • Neighbors
  • Community members
  • Hospital chaplains
  • Religious leaders

Find ways to cope

It is critical that you, as the caregiver, care for yourself and your basic needs so that you have the energy and ability to care for another person. In general, taking care of yourself includes:1

  • Eating well
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Staying hydrated

You cannot care for someone well if you are not caring for yourself first. Make sure you are scheduling some time for self-care activities. Here are some examples of things you can do to help you cope as a caregiver:1,2

  • Going for a walk at the end of each day
  • Taking a yoga class
  • Booking a massage
  • Confiding in a family member
  • Making plans with friends

Be patient with yourself and with each other

Chronic kidney disease is a complex condition to manage. This new normal will take some time to get used to. And there will be days when things are not perfect. Do what you need to de-stress, care for yourself, and get support.