Are you a caregiver for someone with kidney disease? Are you looking for ways to help your loved one manage their health better? Family members and caretakers are essential partners of kidney disease patients in having to empower and satisfying experiences despite their condition.
Understanding the basics can help you better prepare, support, and manage the patient’s care. Here’s how you can help improve the quality of life of the person you’re caring for.
Learn About Kidney Disease
The experience of having a kidney problem may vary from person to person. However, there are common causes and manifestations to watch out for.
Chronic Kidney Disease
When kidneys have been failing for a long time, the patient may be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.
Continuous damage to the kidneys’ filters – called nephrons – can progress to end-stage kidney disease. This leads to a buildup of wastes and extra fluids as the body cannot get rid of them on its own.
Who is at Risk?
These people are at a higher risk of developing kidney problems:
- Those with diabetes
- Those with a high blood pressure
- People with a family history of chronic kidney disease
- Those aged 60 or older
- Those of certain ethnic backgrounds
Individuals with chronic, malfunctioning kidneys may experience:
- Itchy skin (pruritus)
- Muscle cramps
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weight loss
- Blood in the urine
You can support someone with chronic kidney disease by recognizing symptoms promptly and knowing how to help them at home if possible. Additionally, know when to talk to their healthcare team about it.
Try to Help Them Control Their Blood Pressure
Uncontrolled blood pressure can cause kidney disease. However, having a kidney problem can also make a person more likely to have high blood pressure.
Even if an individual does not have symptoms, prescribed medications and a low-sodium diet can help protect the kidneys.
Monitoring their blood pressure at home and attending regular check-ups are beneficial for their overall health too. Remember that protecting the kidneys helps protect overall health, so help them take control of their blood pressure.
Help Them Avoid Products with Added Salt
According to the FDA, Americans consume over 3,400 milligrams of sodium on average per day. A high-sodium diet can pose a range of health risks, especially for someone with CKD. You can help decrease the amount of salt in the diet of the kidney disease patient by:
- Limiting processed and canned foods
- Looking for options that say “no salt added” on the label
- Substituting herbs and kidney-friendly spices for salt to add flavor to meals
Sodium can still be present in food even if you avoid salt. Flavor enhancers and condiments like soy sauce have high amounts of it. A single tablespoon of soy sauce has nearly 40% of the recommended daily sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams.
Be vigilant and creative in food preparation to not aggravate kidney disease with a high-sodium diet.
Encourage Regular Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial, as gaining even 5 pounds can raise blood pressure. Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to kidney disease and vice versa.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are crucial in managing blood pressure levels. People with chronic kidney disease often don’t get enough exercise, which can increase their risk of illness or even death.
Therefore, it’s important to encourage kidney disease patients to exercise more and include physical activity in their care plan, and to get their physician to approve a new exercise plan before they start one. Any kind of aerobic exercise will suffice, from walking to swimming. Tell the patient to aim for 30-minute exercise sessions at least three times a week.
Smoking worsens kidney function and increases the risk of renal failure. It also raises the risk of heart disease, leading to poor blood flow to the kidneys and causing further damage.
Furthermore, using products that contain nicotine causes more protein to be released in the urine. This will effectively worsen kidney health.
Quitting smoking may not be easy, but several resources are available to help make it possible. Developing a plan and reaching out for support can help make it more achievable.
Chronic kidney disease can affect a person’s health and lifestyle, causing physical discomfort and financial difficulties. Treatment options include:
- Kidney transplant
- Comprehensive conservative renal care
- Palliative care
Friends and family of kidney disease patients need to understand dialysis. Dialysis is a treatment that replicates the kidney’s function and cleans the waste from the blood.
Patients often start dialysis when they exhibit symptoms, or their lab tests reveal toxic levels of waste in the blood. While lifesaving, the procedure is also life-changing, as the patient needs to commit to at least 3 sessions of dialysis a week to stay healthy, and each session takes around 4 hours.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and controlling blood pressure can help reduce the risk of needing dialysis in the future.
Certain lifestyle changes can lower the risk of further health problems for those with kidney disease. These adjustments can ultimately help them enjoy happier and healthier lives.
Nephrologist in Attleboro, MA
Caring for a loved one with chronic kidney disease can be challenging. However, learning about the disease and treatment options can help you provide the best possible support. Many patients with chronic kidney disease rely on non-professional healthcare providers, such as family and friends. Taking an active role in their care can support them in this difficult journey.
Don’t let the challenges of kidney disease overwhelm you. Working closely with specialists can help protect the kidneys from further damage through adherence to treatment plans and close collaboration.
At Commonwealth Nephrology Associates, we are committed to providing high-quality, comprehensive kidney care and educating patients, family, and friends on the importance of proactive health management.
If you’re concerned about your kidney health or that of a loved one, contact us at (617) 739-2100. You can schedule a consultation here with one of our board-certified kidney doctors. We look forward to providing you with the support and treatment you need!