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.