By Leann Reynolds
What exactly do the kidneys do?
The kidneys help the body maintain homeostasis by filtering out waste products, balancing electrolyte levels, controlling blood pressure, and stimulating the production of red blood cells. According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidneys filter about 200 quarts of fluid each day, removing about two quarts (in the form of urine) and returning an astounding 198 clean, filtered quarts to vital body systems. When kidneys fail, the body's fluids are no longer filtered effectively, which results in a damaging build-up of toxins.
How dangerous is kidney failure?
Although medical tests must be done to confirm damaged kidneys, family care givers should be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of failing kidneys. Left untreated, kidney failure can lead to reduced cognitive function, congestive heart failure, coma, and even death. High blood pressure, blood in the urine, more frequent, painful or difficult urination, puffiness around the eyes, and swelling of the feet and hands are all warning signs, according to the National Kidney Foundation. While some of these symptoms may not be blaring or overly apparent right away, it's important that you consult a doctor if your loved one is experiencing any of the above problems.
When is dialysis an option?
If your loved one has been diagnosed with kidney failure, it's essential to prevent any further damage as soon as possible - so typically, dialysis or kidney transplant are the only (or best) options. Dialysis is given to patients in all stages of kidney failure, and the sooner it begins, the better the outcome. Dialysis is a medical treatment that makes up for decreased kidney function by filtering toxins out of the body, maintaining a safe level of chemicals and proteins in the bloodstream, and helping control blood pressure, notes the National Kidney Foundation.
Dialysis can be done either at a medical facility or at home (depending on what method of dialysis is needed), and is necessary multiple times each week, for multiple hours at a time. Dialysis is a physically and emotionally taxing process - for both the patient and their family care giver - and is usually necessary for the duration of a person's life, unless kidney transplant is an option.
What other changes can we expect?
If you or someone you love is living with decreased kidney function, your doctor will most likely prescribe medications and recommend dietary and lifestyle changes. Prescriptions may include phosphorous-lowering medications, blood pressure medications, iron supplements, and medications used to stimulate red blood cell production. It's imperative to help your loved one carefully follow any medication schedules or supplement routines to avoid further complications.
Maintaining a healthy diet is also essential in keeping kidney function optimal. Since the kidneys are the body's filters, limiting foods high in salt, phosphorous and potassium, such as bananas (and other fruits), poultry, wheat products, nuts, pre-packaged meals, and other processed foods can help. It's also important to moderate fluid intake so that excess fluid isn't trapped in the body, with nowhere to go.
Can I prevent kidney failure?
Individuals with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease have an elevated chance of suffering from kidney failure, so if you or your loved one suffer from any of these, it's important to monitor the disease and commit to maintaining overall health. Following strict dietary guidelines specific to each condition, engaging in routine physical exercise, and looking after medication routines are all essential to the prevention of kidney failure, and a host of other complications.
Is supplemental home care an option?
In home caregivers are specially trained to support those living with kidney failure and their families. Professional in home caregivers can assist with proper dietary implementation and meal preparation, monitor edema (build-up of excess fluids in the body), provide personal care, give medication reminders, support dialysis therapies, and assist in transplant recovery.
Homewatch CareGivers is the largest, most experienced international provider of full-service in-home care for people of all ages - including seniors, children, veterans, the chronically ill, and those recovering from medical procedures. We invite you to visit the Homewatch CareGivers website where you can read articles related to home health, Dementia Care Tips and home care news; or download PDF home care resources. From health care coordination and hospital discharge planning to home care transportation and daily living assistance, let our family of caregivers care for yours.
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