Building your support team

Living with a kidney disease means not only coping with the physical symptoms of the illness but also the emotional effects that many arise. Regular treatment results in a more structured week and at times it is necessary to rely on other people like carers and loved ones for support. Adapting to treatment and its side-effects may be uncomfortable, while adjusting to a daily dialysis treatment routine takes time and can lead to some tension.

There are many ways of switching off and restoring balance, be it through hobbies, asking the experts and joining patient organizations.

Family and close friends – a vital factor

Including family and friends in your healthcare team can help you navigate the tremendous changes chronic illness brings, boost your quality of life, and even improve your health! Do not be afraid to ask for help when the going gets rough.

Loved ones can help make your home a comfortable, healthy place and provide emotional support. They can also help you adjust to your new lifestyle and stick to your diet and treatment plan. All of this has positive effects on how your disease progresses. Patients living on their own can create an “extended family” of close friends, neighbours, volunteers and maybe even a pet. If you belong – or feel drawn to – a spiritual community, ask to speak to someone at your local place of worship.

Finding something you enjoy

Participating in group activities is another key to physical and mental health. Whether you’d like to volunteer as a tutor, sing in a choir, join a gym or participate in religious services, getting involved can help you feel good and find new friends. What activity you choose is up to you! Family members should also continue pursuing their own interests and activities, even if you can’t always join them.

Asking those in the know

Coping with emotions, getting informed, and last but not least managing your diet – it’s a good idea to include specialists in your strong support team. Counsellors, psychologists and social workers are experienced in helping people deal with life-changing challenges like chronic illness. Your local kidney advocacy group can act as your personal information network. And nutritionists can help you discover new techniques, ingredients and recipes that are both delicious and healthy.

You can have some ideas and suggestions here:

Good Food

Good Food Recipe Library

Patient organizations

There are many organizations designed to help individuals and families deal with the challenges of kidney disease. Ask your physician, psychologist or social worker about the services available in your area. There are plenty of good books and websites, as well. 

Managing kidney disease can be a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. Family and friends are waiting to help. Dialysis centres and support groups also have resources available to help you navigate your path to “new normal”. 

The first step is often the hardest: asking for support. But like most things, it gets easier with practice!