Caring for a person undergoing dialysis: Here are some dietary and mental health tips

'It is common for patients and their caretakers to experience mental health issues caused by lifestyle changes, especially when living in isolation nowadays,' says Dr A S Mathur of NephroPlus Dialysis Center

It is difficult for a sick person to be in the best mental shape. And it can be equally draining for a person who is caring for and looking after them. As such, it becomes important to continue living as normal a life as possible, while eating well and engaging in some hobbies.

Dr A S Mathur, Nephrologist, NephroPlus Dialysis Center says when a person with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) reaches the end stage (stage V) of renal disease, the kidneys no longer function healthily. They are unable to remove the toxins, metabolic wastes and excess fluid from the bloodstream effectively. At this point, dialysis is required to flush out unwanted toxins, excess fluid and waste products by filtering the blood.

“Apart from preventing the accumulation of excess waste in the body, the purpose of dialysis is also to help control blood pressure and regulate levels of chemical elements in the blood, including sodium and potassium. Without dialysis, salts and other waste products continue to accumulate in the blood which eventually damage other important organs of the body.

“As we pass through the tough times of a pandemic, dialysis patients need to grapple with certain unique challenges with regards to their diet, medication as well as mental health,” says Dr Mathur.

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The doctor suggests some dietary guiidelines and some dos and don’ts:

* Consume less salt or salty foods. Sodium tends to increase thirst and the tendency of drinking more fluid. Use fresh herbs and whole spices or lemon juice/vinegar to add flavour to the food.
* Potassium should be regulated at safe levels in the blood; when levels are too high or too low, it can result in cardiac arrest.
* Avoid high phosphate foods such as dairy products, processed food, bone-based soups, beans and cocoa based products.
* Eat a high protein meal that includes foods like eggs, soy, poultry/meat, lentils and fish.
* Dialysis patients have reduced urine output and, therefore, excess fluid retained in the body can cause shortness of breath, swelling in the legs and high BP. Consult your nephrologist on the daily fluid allowance that includes tea, coffee, water or any liquid at room temperature.


People with CKD undergoing dialysis face unique health challenges, and thus, it is important to manage their medication. Here are few tips:

* With the current restrictions, it would be a good idea to keep a stock of medicines (2-3 weeks) that are required regularly. It also saves you or your caretaker from having to go out and buy them often.
* Understand each medication. Do not just blindly ingest medicines from the prescription. Make sure you know what each medication does and its benefits, as advised by your doctor.
* Use a pill organizer and a daily checklist to track your daily dose of medication. Set an alarm so you don’t miss your dose.
* Always be in touch with your nephrologist on a regular basis.

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Mental health

* Do something you enjoy every day. Pick on your hobbies such as art, music, reading, etc.
* Enjoy a daily walk, get enough sleep and take your medication on time.
* Meditation is also a viable option. Focusing on your breathing will help.
* It is best to avoid any unnecessary stress. Listen to the advice of your doctor, should you have any apprehensions about talking to a family member.

“Your mental health affects your physical health; it is common for CKD patients and their caretakers to experience mental health issues caused by lifestyle changes especially when living in isolation nowadays,” Dr Mathur says in conclusion.

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