Planning ahead ensures a happy, healthy trip
You don’t have to say “no” to travel for business or pleasure because you’re on dialysis. With some planning and preparation, you can wheel and deal at a convention, enjoy a family vacation, attend your company’s annual meeting, go back home for a class reunion, make the most of your retirement years or RSVP, “yes,” to an out-of-town wedding.
The first step is deciding where you want to go and when. If you’re taking a business trip or attending a planned event, you already know the destination and dates, but if you’re looking for fun and relaxation, you can make planning the trip part of the pleasure. Make a list of places you’d like to visit and when you’d like to go.
Talk with your doctor, Head Nurse and Administrator and let them know about your plans to travel. They can provide helpful information so you can have a safe trip.
Travel tips for in-center hemodialysis patients
You will want to make arrangements at a hemodialysis center in your destination city at least four weeks in advance of your visit—the more advance notice, the better. This is especially important if you want to visit a popular travel destination or will need to fly. Sometimes, you may need to travel on short notice, perhaps because of a family emergency. If this happens, don’t panic. We will work with you to try and get you the hemodialysis treatments you need. You may be able to get into a dialysis center with shorter notice, but it usually won’t be your first choice. You may also have to drive a longer distance to get hemodialysis or take a shift that is inconvenient. Even when you plan well in advance, it’s a good idea to be as flexible as possible. That will help make it easier to arrange for dialysis treatments away from home and make your trip more relaxing.
It’s also a good idea to check on your insurance coverage. Questions about insurance and paying for treatment can be answered before your trip, so you won’t have any surprises. Some private insurance and Medicare will not pay for dialysis treatment outside of the US or its territories. There are also some private insurance groups that don’t allow travel or won’t pay for travel outside their coverage area. You’ll want to see what’s covered by your individual plan.
Be sure to bring all of your medical information on the trip. You may be able to fax your dialysis records to the center ahead of time or take them with you when you go.
Special travel options for dialysis patients
There are travel companies who specialize in travel planning for dialysis patients. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of taking a cruise, or have taken one in the past and loved it. If so, you’ll be glad to know there are many cruises that offer treatments for dialysis patients. Dialysis cruises travel to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Bermuda, Mexico, the South Pacific, Alaska, Canada, Asia, Europe, South America and other exciting locations.
While you’re on the cruise, dialysis can usually be scheduled during your time at sea so you’ll have plenty of time to explore the ports of call. Your dialysis schedule will be similar to the one you normally have. Your last dialysis treatment will happen at the end of your cruise. That way, if you run into any delays getting home, you’ll be feeling able to deal with them.
If a cruise is not for you, there are many other exciting vacations to choose from. You could explore a new city or have a wilderness adventure. You may even decide to go to camp with other dialysis patients. Your health care team can give you more details about vacations that are right for you.
Travel tips for all dialysis patients
- To make the most of your trip, keep these tips in mind:
- Start planning your trip as far in advance as possible. Arrange for in-center hemodialysis in a dialysis center at least four weeks before traveling, if possible.
- Find out what your insurance will cover so you don’t have any surprise expenses.
- Be sure to take the name and contact information for the dialysis center where you’ll receive treatments while away from home.
- Most dialysis centers will need information about your health, including your medical records and recent lab reports, an EKG and chest x-ray, your dialysis prescription, recent treatment records, dialysis access type, insurance information, a list of the medications you take plus your local phone number and contact information. This information should be carried by hand and not packed in checked baggage.
- When making your reservation for air or train travel, ask for special meals, if needed, such as diabetic, vegetarian, low salt, low fat, etc. Be sure to bring your own diet-appropriate snacks for travel delays and long trips.
- When checking in for a train or plane, request help boarding if needed.
- When reserving a hotel room, ask for a handicapped-accessible or first-floor room, if that is what you need.
- Bring along extra medication in case you get delayed while traveling.
- If you are planning to travel abroad, check with your doctor about any vaccinations you may need before traveling.
- Once you’ve arrived at your destination, call the dialysis center to confirm your dialysis schedule. If you’d like to visit the center to become familiar with it, call the center’s social worker or dialysis unit manager to set up a time to visit.
Even on dialysis people can travel and explore the world. Planning ahead, talking to your social worker and arranging for hemodialysis treatment or having peritoneal dialysis supplies sent to your destination will allow you to get the treatment you need and still have time to enjoy your trip.
The only person who can measure your quality of life is you. Quality of life is defined as: the amount of enjoyment and satisfaction that a person gets from his/her daily routine. Now’s the time to do a little soul searching and answer a few questions:
- Do you live from dialysis appointment to dialysis appointment?
- Or, have you made dialysis just a part of your life that enables you to enjoy the rest?
- Are you living the way you want to live?
- Are you living to the best of your ability?
If you are new to dialysis, you may still be feeling physically tired, and you may still be getting used to the routine of going to treatments three days a week. But after a few dialysis treatments, your blood should be cleaner, your anemia should be treated providing you more energy and you should begin to feel better and be able to get enjoyment from your life.
To achieve quality of life, make sure that you are caring for yourself in all ways: body, mind and spirit. Treating the whole person will put you on the path to success.
Your body is your vehicle to move through life. The same way you get your car’s oil changed, get the engine tuned up and fill it up with gas to keep it running, your body requires its maintenance, too. Keep your dialysis appointments and stay for your entire hemodialysis run to get your blood as clean as possible. Perform your peritoneal dialysis exchanges just as you were taught. Visit your doctor for scheduled medical appointments and speak up when you need help. Work with your dietitian to determine the best diet for you, and pay attention to your lab work to make adjustments in your diet when necessary. Remember to take prescribed medicines including your phosphorus binders when you eat.
You wouldn’t want to leave your car parked in the garage all the time, take your body out, too. A little exercise does a lot of good. Whether you water your plants, walk around the block or play a game of basketball, finding the right activity for you will help your body keep moving. Talk to your doctor about which activities will be helpful for your body.
In addition to helping your body, diet and exercise help keep your mind sharp and centered. It’s amazing what a good phosphorus level and fresh air can do for your mind. Again, your dietitian will have lots of ideas of how to make your food plan work for you, and your doctor and social worker can provide for more information on exercise opportunities.
You may also want to read up on kidney disease and dialysis to learn all you can about what you are experiencing. Peace of mind comes from knowing you are doing the best for yourself. Education will help you make good decisions about your treatment. You’ll also stimulate your mind by learning new things.
Read the daily paper, keep a journal, send letters to friends, listen to music, visit an art museum or do any other activity that requires thinking. Staying involved in the world around you keeps your mind active.
Take time for yourself and connect with people who provide you with positive feedback and support. Revisit things that have been uplifting to you in the past. Whether it’s rereading a favorite book, cooking a delicious dinner or calling a beloved friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile, treat yourself to something you enjoy; something that lifts your spirits.
Nourish yourself by acknowledging what you need to stay centered. Pay attention to what you are feeling and ask yourself what you need. While no one can be centered 100% of the time; you can achieve a greater sense of self by staying attuned to your feelings.
Seek out the sources that help you stay positive. If visiting your grandchildren makes you happy, invite them over or give them a call. Be sure to spend time with people you care about. Watch a television program that holds your interest. A positive experience can lead to a positive attitude, which can make any day a better one.
More ideas for living a quality life
Now that you are aware of the basics, you may want to look at other areas that may interest you. Here are some ideas to think about:
You may find enjoyment in having a job and earning a regular paycheck. Even if the job is part-time or not in the career field you were in before you were diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and started dialysis, there are options out there. Talk to the social worker at your dialysis center for resources in your area. The Department of Rehabilitation and other vocational resources (such as some hospital programs, non-profit agencies, and others) are available to help you find a job that you enjoy and are capable of doing. You may find the greatest perk of working is that you are providing a service to society.
The need for volunteer work in our communities is so vast that there really is something for everyone. Talk to your social worker about what interests you and for ideas on what you can do. For just an hour or two a week, you can make a real difference in the lives of those who need help. Consider volunteering to help children, the elderly or animals. You can tutor, read, or just visit with someone who is lonely. There are also opportunities to volunteer at parks, hospitals, libraries and other institutions. Check your local newspaper, go online, or open your local yellow pages for information on different organizations that are looking for volunteers. Your social worker can help you get in contact with a group that could use your help.
Support and educate new dialysis patients
Nobody can help a new dialysis patient quite like another dialysis patient when entering the environment of dialysis. Oftentimes, starting dialysis is overwhelming. Most people don’t learn they have kidney disease until they need dialysis. They have questions, fears and an adjustment period that you may be able to relate to. They may also be able to provide you with more ideas on how to help fellow patients.
Education, classes, hobbies, arts and crafts
Most community colleges offer low or no cost courses for folks who are disabled. If you are on dialysis you will qualify as someone who is disabled. You will find arts and crafts courses to take, as well as other options. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), there is usually no cost to take classes. Check local adult schools in your area as well. This is a fun and no pressure way to stay active. Depending on what kind of classes you take, you can benefit your body, mind and spirit.
Hopefully, this article will inspire you to give some thought to your quality of life. The ideas listed here are just a few suggestions that may work for you. Above all, remember, you are worth the effort to build a lifestyle you are happy with. If you feel your quality of life is poor, please talk to your doctor or social worker. They are there to help you have the quality of life you deserve.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician. Talk with your doctor before attempting any exercise program.
It doesn’t get any simpler than walking to maintain or improve overall health. Walking moves large muscle groups repetitively and can be done indoors or outdoors, quickly or slowly. Health experts say that the average person should get around 30 minutes of exercise a day and considering that there are 24 hours in a day, walking for that amount of time can be achieved. Walking is highly recommended because it can help curb cardiovascular conditions, a major health risk for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and those on dialysis.
A comfortable pair of shoes and commitment to your health is the only requirement. Other than lowering your chance of heart problems, other benefits of walking include:
- Improved blood circulation
- Better blood pressure control
- Stress relief
- Boost in energy levels
- Stronger muscles
- Weight control
- Restful sleep
- Sharper memory
Where should I walk?
Whether you’re located in a suburb, a big city or in the countryside, there are areas to walk. Take a stroll around the neighborhood, find nature trails or walk around a shopping mall. If the weather doesn’t permit walking outside, think about investing in a new or used treadmill or elliptical machine. Simply walking up and down the stairs or around your house multiple times can also be an alternative to walking outdoors.
Incorporate walking into your daily routine. Rather than getting into your car or taking public transportation, walk to your destination whether it’s to the store, during your lunch break or to visit a neighbor. Invite a friend along or make it a family affair. Walking with a companion is an inexpensive social activity and can be a great way to catch up while doing something good for the body.
What types of shoes are good for walking?
Comfortable shoes can make all the difference when you’re walking. Footwear technology is advancing and there are many choices. Consider these options:
- Walking shoes have low treads and solid construction to grip flat surfaces.
- Running shoes provide more cushion on the ball and heel area to protect the body from impact.
- Fitness shoes are designed to rock or be slightly unstable. The theory is that the leg and buttock muscles will compensate and become more toned.
- Trail shoes look like athletic shoes but have rugged treads to grip and stabilize the walker on trails or hikes.
- Barefoot shoes are the newest technology and offer little to no cushion or support but help build strength and flexibility in the feet.
How do I get started walking for my kidney health?
Getting started on a walking program is as easy as 1-2-3:
- Warm up the body and stretch before every walk (Be sure to consult your doctor about warm up exercises before attempting them.) It usually takes only five minutes and can be gentle and enjoyable. Here are some suggestions to help you begin (perform each move for 5-10 seconds):
- Arms: Reach both arms toward the ceiling and clasp your hands together for about 5-10 seconds. Next, stretch your arms out to the side and rotate them forward in a small, circular motion; repeat this by rotating arms backward. Then cross one arm over your chest, using the other arm to hold it in place; repeat move on other arm.
- Calves, hamstrings and back: Gently bend forward, reaching for toes.
- Thighs: Standing straight, bend your right knee and use your right hand to guide your foot towards the buttocks. Hold this position and repeat on the left side. If you have difficulties balancing on one foot, hold on to a chair or table to help stabilize yourself.
- Walk for 30 minutes or more, at least three times per week. If that’s a challenge, do what is manageable and slowly work up to it.
- Cool down by slowing the pace for the last five minutes of your walk. This allows the body to come back to a more relaxed state.
How much fluid should I consume?
It’s essential to be hydrated while walking, but also important for dialysis patients to stay within their prescribed fluid limits. Consult your healthcare team about how to remain hydrated while walking and still control fluid intake. Also, check labels on water bottles and sports drinks as many brands now have added potassium or phosphorus to these items, something that kidney disease patients need to limit or avoid when possible. Carry a water bottle with you or get a hands-free water bottle that either hooks onto a backpack or athletic utility belt.
Another way to keep from feeling dehydrated is to wear warm weather-appropriate clothes such as short-sleeved shirts and shorts or light weight pants. Go for clothing that is light in color, because darker clothes tend to trap the sun’s heat more easily.
Walking is one of the easiest ways to improve overall health and maintain an active lifestyle when you have kidney disease or are on dialysis. It may help curb cardiovascular problems, control blood pressure, alleviate stress and become a social activity for you and your loved ones. So go ahead, put your best foot forward and enjoy the health benefits exercise can provide.