Challenges of Caregiving For An Adult With Chronic Kidney Disease

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

Caring for an adult with chronic kidney disease (CKD) – whether it is a partner, spouse, parent, or other family member – is not easy. There are so many things to consider that it can feel overwhelming.1,2

While you might be the primary caregiver for someone you love who has CKD, you do not have to do it all on your own. There are caregiver resources that can help lessen some of the burden that comes with caring for another person.2,3

Emotional support

Being a caregiver to someone with a chronic illness like kidney disease can be emotionally draining. You want to give them emotional support, but sometimes it can be hard to know how to do that while still taking care of your emotions.1,2,4

If you begin to feel resentful or that their health condition is a burden, it is time to seek outside help. Here are some people you can talk to:1,2,4

  • Social worker
  • Mental health professional
  • Palliative care specialist
  • Close friends
  • Family

Take the time you both need to process your feelings and all that you are going through. After all, a CKD diagnosis is life-changing for everyone involved. It is normal for emotions to arise. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, see a professional for help.1,2,4

Physical support

When someone has kidney disease, they often rely on their caregiver to provide physical support. This can involve:5

  • Transportation to and from medical appointments
  • Help giving medicines or dialysis treatment
  • Lifting and moving heavy dialysis equipment and supplies

Take good care of yourself by exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough sleep so that you can provide physical support when needed. If you need help with any specific tasks, ask for help. You cannot do everything yourself. This is not a sign of defeat, just reality.2,5

Nutrition support

Healthy kidneys help balance the minerals and nutrients in your body. But in people with CKD, the kidneys are not able to do this job well. Eating a kidney-friendly diet can help lessen the strain on their kidneys.6

You can help your loved one by preparing meals that are best suited for their nutrition needs. Typically, this will include foods that are low in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. Ask your loved one's doctor for instructions. If you need help with meal planning, check out the National Kidney Foundation for recipe ideas.4,6

In addition, consider meeting with a dietitian. They can help you learn which foods to avoid. They can also give you ideas for go-to meals and snacks.6

Caring during the later stages of kidney disease

If you are a caregiver for someone with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), also known as kidney failure, your loved one is likely facing dialysis and potentially a kidney transplant. You may be their health advocate. This means that you are responsible for keeping track of their medical information and are involved in their healthcare decisions.7

If you are dealing with complex treatments, be sure you have the resources you need to help you provide support to your loved one. If your loved one chooses to forgo treatment and enter conservative management, consider seeking palliative care.7,8

Palliative care is a type of medical care that helps relieve discomfort and CKD symptoms. It can greatly improve your loved one’s quality of life and serves as an extra layer of support for you and your family. Talk with your loved one’s healthcare team about their palliative care options.7,8

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