For someone faced with kidney failure, dialysis may be the only treatment keeping them alive. The decision to stop dialysis and move into hospice is a difficult one to make. Individuals become extremely sick and experience a poor quality of life that the decision, at this point, whether or not to continue with treatments can turn into an easy one. Acute renal failure is a sudden loss of the kidney’s ability to remove waste. It can be caused by certain diseases such as extremely low blood pressure. Chronic renal failure is the slow loss of kidney function over time and usually caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. The final stage of chronic kidney disease is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and at this point most people are faced with the decision of stopping dialysis.
Discontinuing dialysis shouldn’t be considered in individuals who can continue to lead a longer life with the help of these treatments. However, if bad diabetes and being bed bound is a daily struggle, then transitioning over to hospice care may be the best decision. Making this decision is personal and should take careful consideration between the individual and their loved ones. There are many questions to ask yourself and determine what your life will continue to look like if you keep with dialysis… Will it lead to other life-limiting health issues? What quality of life will you live? Can you keep up with the exhausting and sickening sessions on a regular basis?
Talk to your family and physician about hospice. We all want more time. It’s only human. But dialysis at this point can become counter-productive. What matters most may not be more time, but the ability to more fully enjoy the time we have. Hospice can bring a better quality of life for the time that’s left as well as support not only to the patient, but family and caregivers as well. You can remain at home, pain free and comfortable with your hospice team there to help every step of the way. Sometimes the question is no longer “What can be done?” but “How do I want to live now?”