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Caregiving: Is my loved one too sick to go to dialysis?

"Peritoneální dialýza" by BAXTER CZECH spol. s r.o. - BAXTER CZECH spol. s r.o.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Peritoneální dialýza” by BAXTER CZECH spol. s r.o. – BAXTER CZECH spol. s r.o.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Last year, my mother was the one who called the shots when it came to deciding whether or not she needed dialysis treatment. This turned out to be a horrible experiment. If she felt sick, she would decide not to go – and as a result, her body continued to be overloaded with toxins and she ended up getting so sick that she was hospitalized and in rehab for several weeks.

Ever since then, I’ve greatly stepped up my caregiver role, and now I am the one who decides if she is okay to go. When you’re feeling under the weather AND a dialysis patient, it’s really a catch-22. Sickness and fatigue can result in really low blood pressure – low enough that you’re unable to receive treatment. But when you’re sick, your body is trying to fight off the sickness – so avoiding dialysis can make things even worse.

So, if you’re looking after a dialysis patient, you need to ask, monitor and record symptoms. It is particularly important to determine whether or not your patient is contagious, so checking temperature is paramount. A few months ago, I received a Braun no-touch digital thermometer as a Klout influencer. I was never obligated to review it, but it really has come in handy this week.

I took this last week, but you get the picture:

Okay, temperature is fine! Good! Examples of important things to ask and write down:

Are you coughing up phlegm? What color is it?
Is your throat sore?
Are you experiencing diarrhea or vomiting?
Are you wheezing?

Write down the answers to these questions, as well as anything you observe. Then, call the dialysis clinic and speak to a nurse and tell that nurse the patient’s symptoms. Tell the nurse whether your patient is on any medications to treat these symptoms. However, dialysis patients must be careful what they use to treat any illness because self-medication could make things worse.

The main thing the nurse will likely want to know is if your patient is showing symptoms of being contagious. After all, you’re trying to determine if your patient can go to a clinic and expose themselves to several other patients with compromised immune systems.

My advice – and this is strictly from experience, and I am not a doctor – is to make sure your patient goes to every dialysis treatment, on schedule. If, for any reason, your patient is unable to go to dialysis (weather, being contagious), it is time to kick into high gear and monitor your patient constantly, recording symptoms.

If your patient is experiencing skin discoloration or edema (swelling), it’s time to call an ambulance. I have called ambulances when my mother’s eyes were nearly swollen shut, and her skin was a yellowish-green (the results of toxin buildup).

Most of all, be patient to your patient, listen to their needs, but be mindful that your patient may be stubborn. You have to be the strong one here.

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