Dialysis and Age

older person and depression

A reader commented this week and wrote:

…I wish my dad would go on dialysis, but..he is refusing, he just got out of Hospital yesterday after having a heart attack, his kidneys are only 16 percent. i am so worried, I wish he would give it a chance.

I responded: “After all he’s been through, he probably asking himself if it’s worth it. I went through the same and I have friends who have had to answer that too. It might help if you offer him some reasons to stick around and also help him resolve his possible fears and concerns about enduring the treatment.”

Then I got to thinking about this and figured it would be a good topic to write about.  In my posting “Dialysis and Depression“,  l mention  meeting a fellow who was considering not starting dialysis because he was 57 years old and figured he’d lived long enough.  He was having to face the question of whether it was worth it for him to endure dialysis.  It’s a big question and one older folks have to face.  We have to justify continuing life while enduring the pain and discomfort of dialysis.

In my case, I started dialysis late in life and I’m glad I lived to see several more years because of that.  But, I seriously had to face that question and make the decision to continue dialysis.  Frankly, I didn’t question starting dialysis.  It just sort of began.  I was generally in a fog of confusion when I started.  My brain was so starved of good, clean blood, I couldn’t think straight.  I wrote about this in “Dialysis and the Initial Shock” where I describe coming to grips with the hugely overwhelming aspect of living on dialysis.  Later I had to deal with depression and justifying my continuing to live on dialysis in “Dialysis and Depression“.  Later I returned to the topic in “Dialysis and Depression (continued)” and “Dialysis and Acceptance” I’ve been down the road of justification for dialysis many times!  And, I’m still here.

Starting dialysis is a personal question and everyone has to make their own decision. In the case of older folks, it involves determining if it’s worth it.  Several people I’ve talked to have been through this analysis.  I’ve seen people in their 80’s in dialysis and I’ve seen many, many others in their 60’s.  After all I’ve been through, it’s been worth it.  But that was my decision.

Yes, I advocate in favor of dialysis.  It’s a life-giving treatment.  We’re very fortunate to have it available.  If your heart or other major organs fail, there’s little alternative other than a transplant.  When the kidneys fail, we have dialysis and/or transplant.  Like I said, we’re lucky.  But along with dialysis comes the prospect of being stuck with needles three times a week and sitting in a chair for 3 to 4 fours at a time.  That’s not pleasant.

In my case, I made the decision to endure the 12-15 hours a week in dialysis so that I could have the remaining 150+ hours in a week to live.  As I figure, I spend 10% of my week in dialysis so I can pleasure in the other 90%.  Not a bad deal.

I respect the right of others to make the decision NOT to seek dialysis treatment.  That’s their decision and they should be able to make that decision for themselves.  In the case of the commentor’s father,  he needs to consider not just himself but his family in that decision. His daughter wants him to live and that’s a good reason in itself.  I still have two sons at home who need my parenting.  That was one reason I decided but it’s not always enough.  I needed to find the will to endure and some purpose in life.  I got involved in the dialysis and kidney community and that helps give me reasons to continue.

I hope her father considers all the factors.  He’s already lived through a heart attack and now he’s facing kidney failure. Those are some tough hurdles to leap but each of us has to approach them and make a conscious decision how to deal with them.  Being older makes that decision all the more difficult.

About DevonTexas

I am a person with ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) which means my kidneys don't work. Forty or so years ago that would have been a death sentence but today there is Dialysis which means I could be hooked up to a machine that would clean my blood as the kidneys should. Three days a week, I went to a dialysis center and had too very large needles stuck in my arm to remove and replace my blood as it passed through a process where it was cleaned and the fluid was removed, a process taking a little over four hours each time. In November 2017, I received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor. My life went into overdrive. With a "new" functioning kidney, I no longer had to go to a dialysis center and my days were not open to be lived rather than recovering from dialysis which meant dialyzing for three days and resting for 4 days a week. I work full-time and often 50 hours per week. It is something I never imagined. I highly recommend it! HeeHee I want to advance knowledge about dialysis and transplant so that others can learn from my experience and mistakes. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel, eh? There is so much to be learned and experienced about our predicament. There are vast resources available to support us and enrich our lives but many patients don't know about them. There are also many issues that we have to deal with whether we want to or not. So I blog about them in www.DevonTexas.com All comments are confidential until I approve them. If you don't want your comment public, let me know and I will respect that. So, feel free to leave a comment. I also blog in LegacyTales in WordPress if you are interested in the ramblings of a Old Man. Give a peek and let me know what you think. https://legacytales.wordpress.com/ Enjoy.
This entry was posted in depression, dialysis, ESRD, New Patient, parenting, Social Work, Transplant and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Dialysis and Age

  1. Jim Takita says:

    I am 80 years old and have been on dialysis for four years. I think I made the right choice to keep on living and undergo the relative discomfort of dialysis. My brother two years my senior decided against dialysis much to the consternation of his daughters. He could still be alive today enjoying his grandchildren and his family. He was deathly afraid of dialysis.

    • DevonTexas says:

      Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate that you’re here to tell the story. I think the prospect of being on dialysis is much worse than the actual thing. It’s really not as bad as it might seem. My major discomfort now is in the last hour or so when I’m tired of being in the chair.

  2. There are, of course, several choices to be made when one finds out dialysis is just around the corner, and no one of us can say which is wrong or right for anybody. Just letting nature take it’s course is a viable choice and I know several people who chose to do just that. I know there is a lot of pain involved and you still don’t know how long you will live. A precious lady in my church chose to go this route and it was a longer, more drawn out process than she had dreamed, but she never regretted her decision and never had dialysis the first time. She lost a tremendous amount of weight and still had to go in every other week, maybe more often and I did not see her, for her procrit shots to build the red blood cells. It was hard on her family who were taking care of her until close to the end. It was her decision. I chose to go on dialysis, because I felt led to try to get involved in advocating for dialysis patients and supporting transplant patients.

    There are many ups and downs with the process of dialysis for us all, but I really have not had
    many bad things happen, in fact, my life has been good and I have had doors of opportunity opened to me that have been how I envisioned it in the hospital. I felt led and I have followed to the best of my ability. I have no regrets with my choice from the very beginning.

    Of course, I fell in July with great injury and infection to my spine that we are still dealing with with antibiotics that will run out in two weeks. Then we don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know the age of the father in this post, but I am now 70 and still believe I am here for a specific reason. So I will accept this gift of life as long as I am granted it each morning. And will be praying for your father as he makes his decisions as best he can. Just be supportive of him and let him know you would like to see him stay around. As Devon says, truthfully, dialysis is not as bad as most people think in the beginning. Blessings.

  3. DevonTexas says:

    Good points, Harriet! Thank you.

  4. As a PKD patient with rising creatinine, I realized that I would have some decisions to make and I did a lot of reading on reputable sites. I had an AV fistula placed and lo and behold my function stabilized for five years. I started dialysis at age 65 and never did do incenter dialysis.I did home hemo with the help of my husband and the wonderful training supplied by my center . I realized that it would give me the best quality of life for the long haul. Yes, it is a bit scary at first, but sometimes you have to take the plunge and give it a try . We dialyzed five days a week and usually did it first thing in the morning for about 2 and a half hours, then went about our other activities, housework, gardening, shopping, etc fo me. We called it out “part time job” as it did account for about 20 hours a week. I always did my own needles and even did them when I was in ICU following the removal of both my diseased kidneys. BTW, neither of us is a medical professional, though I consider myself an informed medical consumer – as we all should be.This continued for 18 months until I received a live donor transplant from a dear friend which has worked out great. I still have my fistula and I will use it again if the need arises. I felt well on dialysis, got a tremendous amout of reading done and now I feel even better with my transplant and I enjoy many more activities.

  5. Pat says:

    I sit here in tears, my 83 yearold grandmother is faced with the decision of dialysis ….I as her eldest granddaughter I am worried – horrified about her decision. Either way, I feel that death will e at our doorstep….She has high blood pressure, forgets to take her meds …diabetes …kidneys are 10 percent functioning ….and soon to have her veins ultrasound. I was just wondering your opinions on a 83 yearold going through the process of starting dialysis ?? I feel that it will drain her, and bring on death alot sooner ….. :/ confused

    • DevonTexas says:

      It’s not my decision thank God but if it were, I’d speak with her about… very frankly. When my friend Jayne was in her last days, we talked about her situation and she made it clear she no longer wanted to take the “pee pill” as she called it that was helping her get rid of fluid around her heart and keeping her somewhat alive. I spoke with her doc about her decision and he agreed that it was her prerogative. She stopped all the meds. I called the local hospic to assist and she and lasted about another week. She was 89. It was a quiet passing with no pain.

      Dialysis is a life-giving treatment. If she decides she doesn’t need it, then okay. She shouldn’t go through all the pain and discomfort of getting prepared for it and the initial sticks. Talk with her and she what she thinks. At 83, she may be ready to pass without all the fuss.

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