Dec 12, 2017
While essential for managing one’s CKD, dialysis is a major life adjustment that brings with it a range of psychosocial challenges – such as anxiety, social isolation, loneliness, and even depression.
Depression can diminish your quality of life, impacting physical and mental health, ability to function, personal and social relationships, and overall independence and well-being. Speak with your social worker if you’re experiencing signs of depression, and check out what your dialysis provider may offer in terms of peer support groups.
Often, some of your most valuable resources in adjusting to life on dialysis are other patients. With educational and social activity group interventions, you can fight social isolation and loneliness in a variety of ways.
Peer support groups, composed of people living with the same disease, enable members to share common real-life experiences. As a result, other members learn to better manage their own health and cope with the challenges dialysis brings.
Helps kidney patients adjust to living with a chronic illness
Decreases feelings of isolation and depression
Promotes better self-management
Many patients who have participated in a peer support group say that it shows them that their feelings are shared and validated. Social isolation and potential stigma diminish. Patients renew positivity and their hope for the future. They recognize that their experiences are normal and common to others.
An excellent source of support we have at our Satellite Healthcare Clinic is the Patient Clinic Committee. It has eight members, comprised of patients currently receiving dialysis treatment.
The committee meets twice per month to discuss patient issues and concerns and share updates on educational information to be passed along to patients at each shift. It provides help in a variety of other ways:
Some members participate in out-of-town conferences, bringing back knowledge and information to share with the other patients. The committee hosts periodic patient spotlights featuring patients’ hobbies and interests. Members can also advocate for patient interests in the community.
One patient describes the Patient Clinic Committee’s purpose this way:
“It helps introduce new patients to the end stage renal care community. We look for resolutions to problems by asking relevant questions and providing answers. Thinking inside and outside the box helps us help each other.”
Another patient said, “The group has become like family to me. It has helped me have a positive attitude instead of feeling isolated and depressed. I have been given a new opportunity to move forward with my illness. It helps me live a life that is as normal as possible.”
Patients who actively participate in their care and treatment can decrease depression and social isolation for better life and health outcomes.
Clearly, the Patient Clinic Committee is helping patients live fuller, happier lives. If your provider doesn’t have one, consider talking to your social worker about creating one.
Kristina Hernandez is Satellite Healthcare’s newest Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in Laredo, Texas. She obtained a master’s degree in social work from Our Lady of the Lake University in 2016 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M International University in 2009. She is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program at Capella University. Although new to the field of nephrology and dialysis, Kristina has seven years of experience in working with people of her community to meet psychosocial needs and eliminate barriers to care. Kristina’s experience includes internships with Laredo Medical Center and Laredo Independent School District. She also has worked as a social service worker, mental health professional and a disabilities and mental health director.