| Dialysis | Kidney disease | Patient stories | Transplant

5 Ways to Help a Friend or Family Member with Kidney Disease

July 29, 2022, 8:54am EDT

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Your loved one’s personality is as unique as their healthcare needs. By learning about their conditions, you’ll be able to provide the best help possible. Here are 5 ways that you can help.

1. Learn how the kidneys work

Kidneys are the hardworking cleaners of the body. Blood entering them is cleaned as it passes through millions of tiny filters called glomeruli. Wastes and unneeded fluids are removed through urine, the clean blood returns to the bloodstream, and the cycle continues. 

Kidneys also:

  • Control the production of red blood cells
  • Make vitamins that control growth
  • Release hormones that help regulate blood pressure
  • Help regulate red blood cells and certain nutrients in the body, like calcium and potassium

Learn more about how kidneys work

2. Learn about kidney disease

These five risk factors increase the risk for kidney disease:

  1. High blood pressure: A major cause of kidney disease, but may be able to be controlled with healthy lifestyle choices and medicines.
  2. Heart disease: Your heart and kidneys work together to keep you healthy. Your heart can affect the health of your kidneys, and your kidneys can affect the health of your heart. A healthy lifestyle and treatments can help control this condition.
  3. Diabetes: A major cause of kidney disease and can be controlled with healthy lifestyle choices and medicines.
  4. Overweight or obese: There is a greater chance of developing diabetes or high blood pressure, which are the leading causes of kidney disease and kidney failure.
  5. Family history: Since kidney disease affects some families more than others – understanding the factors that can lead to kidney disease is important so that you can prevent kidney disease from developing.

If the kidneys aren’t able to function properly, the toxins that should have been removed build up in the body, making people feel sick or causing complications like 

  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia or low blood cell count
  • Weak bones
  • Nerve damage
  • Heart and blood vessel disease

Learn the stages of kidney disease

Once the severity of the kidney disease is determined, a healthcare professional will create a treatment plan. For some, medicine and lifestyle changes can keep kidney disease from getting worse. Ask them how you can best support these lifestyle changes.

3. Share resources

Unless you’ve gone through kidney disease yourself, you likely won’t completely understand what your friend or family member is going through or have all the answers. That’s okay! What you can do is give them resources to support their journey where you cannot. 

  1. NKF Peers: This program offers people with kidney disease a safe space to connect with trained mentors via telephone or an in-app chat. Sometimes speaking with people in a similar situation helps give valuable insight and allows people to feel part of a community. 
  2. NKF Cares: Our Patient Information Help Line offers trained specialists to answer questions about kidney disease. To get started, call toll-free at 855.NKF.CARES (855.653.2273) weekdays from 9:00 am - 7:00 pm Eastern Time or email nkfcares@kidney.org.
  3. Kidney Communities: Our online communities offer a safe, anonymous, and supportive place where patients and caregivers can share experiences, ask questions, and get answers related to kidney health, kidney disease, transplantation, and living organ donation.

4. Tell them how you can help 

Sometimes a good-intentioned, “Let me know how I can help!” can cause anxiety. Tell them what you can do instead of having them guess your abilities, commitment level, and availability.

Here are a few specific ways you can offer help:

  • If they have children, offer to babysit so they can have some time for themselves or get to a doctor’s appointment.
  • Give them a momentary escape by setting up an event or activity you know they would enjoy. Juggling kidney disease can be tricky, so the true gift here is doing all the prep work for them. Be sure you take into account their dietary and lifestyle needs.  
  • Offer to pick up their groceries or medications, clean their house, or do yard work. 
  • If they need to do more physical activity ask if they would like a work-out-buddy. Here are five exercises to try together.

5. Become a Voices for Kidney Health Advocate

The National Kidney Foundation’s Voices for Kidney Health is a community of patients and care partner advocates working with elected officials and other public leaders to help those facing the challenges of kidney disease and promote better kidney health nationally. But, we can’t do it without you. You and your story can influence public policy regarding kidney health, organ donation, and transplantation.

We’ll show you how – sign up to become a Voices for Kidney Health advocate and start making an impact today.

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