Why dialysis patients and their families are at higher risk of mental health issues

The need of mental health aid in successful chronic kidney disease management is paramount and highlights some mental health tips and management techniques for friends and families of kidney patients

Representational image. Anna Frodesiak/Wikimedia Commons

Kidney patients, in their day-to-day life, face several challenges. Strict adherence to dietary intake, time constraints to dialysis appointments, and significant medication burden degrade their quality of life. This kind of disrupted routine affects them physically and takes a toll on their mental and emotional status. All disease management journeys focus on restoring their physical abnormalities; however, their mental health is often ignored. Depending on the stage of their kidney disease, the patient’s stress levels increase, which strongly impacts their mental health.

The need of mental health aid in successful chronic kidney disease management is paramount and highlights some mental health tips and management techniques for friends and families of kidney patients.

1. Significance of mental health in chronic disease management

Mental health plays a vital part in the self-care of all chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and CKD is no exception. A patient’s personality, behavioural traits, and coping mechanism influences their understanding and compliance to treatment interventions: both lifestyle and mediations. Hence mental health indirectly influences health outcome.

2. What are the possible psychological disorders attached to kidney diseases and their severity?

The primary reasons for these stressors are the financial burden of dialysis, feeling of dependency on friends and family, fear of undergoing dialysis treatment, and impact on social and work life. Many patients also witness restless periods of sleep, significant weight change, loss of appetite, reduced ability to think or concentrate, anxiety due to disease symptoms, need for higher levels of care, lack of support in elderly and also cost of care are not uncommon in kidney patients. Depression has been reported in upto 20 to 25 per cent of patients with CKD in the developed countries. Though we do not have reliable data, we have no reasons to believe that the probability of depression is any less among patients in India.

3. Explicit medical take on the use of psychological aid in dealing with chronic kidney diseases

Firstly is to have a clear conversation with your treating doctor to understand the health implications of the diagnosis, the patient’s role in terms of lifestyle changes, visit frequency and medical therapy. Just being better informed and being an active participant gives one a sense of control of disease conditions. Of course support from a care provider plays an enormous role. In the Indian context, informal knowledge through friends and well-wishers to identify “right fit” health care providers is key – it means an accessible, affordable and appropriate health care facility and or practitioner.

4. Helpful mental health tips to practice with kidney patients

· Positive mindedness

· Taking effort to understand the disease

· cooperation with your doctor’s care plan

· Sharing your concerns and anxiety with your care provider

· Mindfulness

· Healthy lifestyle with recommended physical activity and diet

· Alcohol and smoking abstinence are key drivers of good mental health

Managing a chronic illness often leads to resentment and can cause the patient to feel like a burden. It can also lead to a miserable situation for friends and families, which is not healthy for the patient. At such critical times, friends and families of kidney patients play a crucial role in managing their mental health status. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain communication with your friend/family member suffering from kidney ailments.

The author is a leading nephrologist and Senior Vice President, NephroPlus. Views are personal.

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