Do you get yourself up at the crack of dawn several times a week to trudge down to a dialysis center? Depending on where you live, the nearest dialysis center can be an hour or two away. The process of traveling to and from the center and receiving the treatment can be exhausting for the patient. Some dialysis patients feel they are prisoners of the treatment they need to keep themselves alive.
Dialysis is used to clean the blood of extra waste and fluids that the body is no longer capable of eliminating itself. There are two types of dialysis that can be done at home: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis requires that the patient have a vascular access port in the arm. A machine takes the patient’s blood from the body, via the access port, and cleanses it. The blood is then returned to the patient’s body once the excess toxins have been removed. The treatment takes several hours a day and is can be required three to seven times a week. Peritoneal dialysis is performed several times each day by pouring fluid into a tube in the abdomen. The tube is then drained to remove the waste.
Home dialysis is available to most patients who meet some simple criteria. The most important criteria include adequate vision, and the ability to read and write. Patients are responsible for reading training materials and ordering dialysis supplies. Additionally, patients are required to document basic information on each treatment they perform. This information is crucial to the patient’s doctor who must monitor and adjust treatment as necessary. If the patient is unable to perform these necessary tasks, they can still qualify to receive treatment at home if they have a care giver who is available during each treatment and can meet the criteria.
It is estimated that only 8% of eligible patients take advantage of the home dialysis option. Few patients are aware that this option exists. The new Medicare payment rules may entice dialysis centers to get the word out. In the past, centers could make a profit on dialysis medications when they billed Medicare. However, the new payment rules will only provide a flat fee to the centers for each treatment. Medicare will also provide a financial incentive to centers that provide home dialysis education and training. Under the new rules, it may prove more cost effective for dialysis centers to educate patients about receiving treatment at home.
Home dialysis allows patients to take back their life by setting their own treatment schedule. A lot of patients receive dialysis while they sleep at night. Furthermore, the dialysis machine is only about the size of a carry-on suitcase. This portability permits patients to travel if they want. The need for dialysis no longer needs to take over a patient’s life.