Living on dialysis can be pretty challenging. Many issues demand your attention as you develop ‘New Normals’ in life. One of them would be your work life. Many people who start on dialysis want to return quickly to their jobs to feel normal again while some people take a little time off from work whereas a few might take a long leave of absence to get used to a ‘life on dialysis’. People cope with difficult times differently but whatever the scenario is, there definitely are advantages to staying in a job. Generally, people who continue to work feel better and are able to maintain their lifestyle during treatment easily. Often these people:
- Have better self-esteem
Being independent makes people more confident about themselves. Working provides independence and therefore it helps boost your self-esteem. It becomes even more critical to not feel like a burden on someone if part / whole of your medical expenses while dialysis are taken care of from your own income.
- Have a steady income in hand
Needless to say working provides a steady income that can be used to support day today life style or even your medical expenses. For many people cost of dialysis is quite prohibitive so working provides much needed income in those cases to help relieve that pressure.
- Are less depressed
Working also does a simple thing i.e. keeping you busy. As they say idle mind is a devil’s house. So staying busy helps relieve a lot of psychological pressures that come along with a chronic illnesses and their treatments.
- Are physically more able
Working also makes you active on an overall basis. Combined with better mental health as described above, a job makes you much more able for day today chores as compared to if you choose to not work.
- Experience less pain
As mentioned above, when you are working you tend to be busy and active. That in turn relieves some pain and help you cope with it better.
- Have better general health and energy
Benefits described above provide you generally better health and keep you energized throughout the day.
- Stick to the plan given by their doctor in a better way
A happy person is more conducive to advice and following routine. Hence if you are working, due to the higher energy level and mental strength that you experience, you are able to follow the plan provided by your doctor in a preferable way.
As is evident, all of the above indicate a more functional life physically and henceforth shorter and fewer stays in the hospital indicating an improved life expectancy. Even better it gives you a sense of purpose and an identity which often is lost combating illnesses like Chronic Kidney Disease(CKD).
Kind of jobs you can look for during dialysis?
Being in a workplace definitely has its perks but before returning to the old job or finding a new one the prime question is Are You Ready to Work? The accurate answer to which can be given by your doctor. Even you, on a personal level, need to assess if you are ready for the same, physically as well as mentally ready. For all that to happen:
- First learn as much as you can about your kidney disease, dialysis and how to treat symptoms : Educate yourself better. Know what you are facing. Discuss the disease in detail with your doctor. Fighting a chronic disease at times, can be depressing. Knowing about the disease will help you fight it better.
- Second, understand your kidney diet : Certain diet modifications need to be done once you are suffering from CKD like diet low in potassium, phosphorous and salt. Making healthy choices will eventually help you feel more in control of your health and keep you in good shape at work.
Once you are thorough with the disease, sit down and evaluate your job requirements. Share the information about kidney disease with your employer and then work with your employer to focus on what you can do. Talk about what you do well. The following points should never be overlooked:
- Physical demands of the job and limitations you might have because of the frequent breaks you will need to take for your Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) exchange.
- The work schedule of the job and if it can be modified according to your doctor visits or dialysis sessions.
- If you need to travel for your job. Too much travelling might hamper your dialysis appointments.
- If you can be provided with a clean place to do your PD Exchange.
Alternately, jobs you might want to look for are that of a teacher, a hospital worker or any job that gives you ‘work from home’ facility like that of a writer, support jobs, customer service jobs etc.
Few Things that should never leave your mind while on work?
Suffering from a chronic disease like CKD brings in a few inseparable parameters which need to be monitored at all points of time. The most important ones would be:
- Managing the anemia
Most people with stage 4 or 5 Chronic kidney disease suffer from anemia- which is shortage of oxygen carrying red blood-cells in the body. As CKD advances, kidneys are unable to make adequate amounts of a hormone called erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. As a result one might feel too tired to work and it can cause:
○ Severe fatigue
○ Muscle weakness
○ Shortness of breath
○ Loss of concentration
○ Feeling cold all the time
○ Rapid heartbeat
○ Chest pain
○ Pale lips, gums and nails
○ Cravings for ice, clay or laundry starch
Getting your haemoglobin(hb) count done regularly can save you from the ill-effects. Severe anemia or anemia not responding to drug therapy(iron supplements and food rich in iron) needs injections of synthetic erythropoietin, which can help bone marrow to produce new red blood cells.
- Following the diet restrictions sincerely
While on job one might find it difficult to practice diet restrictions closely but that is an absolute necessity while on dialysis.
○ Most people on dialysis are advised to eat high protein diet with adequate calories, water soluble vitamins( vit.B and C) and minerals.
○ Restriction of fluids and salt is much essential
○ Restrict diet rich in potassium and phosphorous.
○ Other general measures such as avoiding smoking, maintaining healthy weight, regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake.
- Finding a clean place to carry a PD exchange
If you are on peritoneal dialysis then you need to perform exchange a couple of times while at work. Bacterial/microbial contamination of the catheter is the last thing you want to happen. for that you need to make sure that
○ The place is clean
○ Is germ-free ( you may carry a germ-free spray if you need to
○ Using of rest-room in break hours for PD exchange is strictly prohibited.
- Keep a check on your blood pressure
You need to check your blood pressure on a regular basis.
How do you educate your co-workers on your situation?
Working while on dialysis, finding an encouraging group of supporters who can help you stay positive and healthier is always a plus. From family to friends to co-workers, it is important to surround yourself with people who can lend a helping when in need or in a state of emergency. The following things can be done:
- Inform others ( employer, co-workers) about your kidney disease
- Take a selective co-worker along to your doctor visits for dialysis: If you have somebody at work who, you feel, is supportive of your situation and wants to know more about it, can always be taken along to the appointment.
What is the best dialysis option for those working on dialysis?
Haemodialysis (HD) and Peritoneal dialysis (PD) are both effective modalities in Chronic Kidney disease(CKD) patients. No single modality is best suited for all the patients. Major factors determining the selection are:
- Cost of the therapy
- Age of the patient
- Comorbid conditions ( like diabetes or high blood pressure)
- Distance of the Dialysis centre
- Educational status of the patient and the family
- Patient’s preferences and lifestyle
After considering all the aspects of each dialysis modality, selection of HD or PD is made jointly by the patient, family members and the nephrologist. Because of low cost and availability, haemodialysis is preferred by a large number of patients in India.
Build a support-system, talk about your feelings to your friends and family frequently. It will help you stay strong and fight CKD in a prepared way. Also stay closely in touch with your nephrologist to know if you can start working and also the level of physical endurance you can go through. Based on the feedback from your nephrologist you can chalk out your work plans.
For further help, you can call our customer care number: +91 80 4912 9900
We can also conduct a class for the interested.
“Dialysis can be hard to cope with, but it is worth it and working while the treatment can make the experience a tad bit better”