Coping With Kidney Disease Is Hard. Peer Mentors Can Help

May 10, 2022, 8:43am EDT

Person sitting on couch, happily talking on a cellphone

Mental health is important for people with kidney disease. Far too many people face kidney disease without enough emotional support, but NKF Peers is working to change this. 

What is NKF Peers?

Kidney disease is overwhelming. You may feel lost, alone, or unsure of what to do next, but there is someone who can be by your side throughout your kidney health journey. NKF Peers is a free program for people with late-stage kidney disease, including people on dialysis or those with a kidney transplant, living donors, and people considering kidney donation. Those who join receive one-on-one support from others living with kidney disease trained to guide and support them.

How does NKF Peers work?

You'll first speak with a social worker to see if NKF Peers is right for you. If you have a smartphone, you can download an app to select a mentor based on what is important to you, such as age, gender, stage of kidney disease, type of dialysis treatment, cause of kidney disease, and more. A mentor can also be selected for you if you prefer. 

Participants and their mentors can schedule times to connect via telephone or the in-chat app. Don't have a smartphone? No problem! You don't need the app to connect with a mentor- a mentor can connect with you by phone. 

Your personal information is never shared, we connect all matches through a toll-free phone number, and you can always choose the days and times that are best for you.

Sign up to get matched with your mentor.

The benefits of NKF Peers

Hearing someone's story and perspective can help you adjust to what you may be going through– Here's how.

Adjust to the new lifestyle

Even those with robust support from friends and families may feel alone during this time because they have not lived the same experience. Having someone in your corner who has made positive life adjustments to living with kidney disease may make all the difference. 

“I found it very easy to connect with her and instantly was relieved that I had someone that I could really be my ‘true self’ with about this kidney process.” said Heather, a mentee whose been involved with NKF Peers for over a year, “The first time I spoke with Christine (mentor) this huge weight came off of me being able to really open up and talk about my kidney disease with someone.”

Seeing another person with kidney disease thriving provides much-needed hope to those who face a kidney disease diagnosis and treatment.

Improves self-management

While mentors will not offer any medical advice or opinions, they can share their life experiences, including their struggles and how they have been able to live well. Hearing these anecdotes and seeing the proof can inspire others to follow their medical recommendations closely.

“I really appreciate how my mentor has helped me to refocus my energy on getting healthier.” said a mentee, who wished to remain anonymous “Dealing with kidney disease can be such a marathon, so it's helpful to have someone give you a gentle push when you need it.”

Peer mentors can act as accountability buddies checking in on kidney diets, exercise, and mental health. If mentees experience roadblocks, their mentor can provide valuable resources and support to get them back on track.

Fights isolation during COVID-19

People with kidney disease are more vulnerable to severe complications from catching COVID-19. Due to this, many have had to limit public outings, family events, or seeing friends. Without proper support, isolation may increase depression and anxiety. 

"The emotional toll of having kidney disease in the middle of a pandemic cannot be understated." said Kevin Longino, CEO of NKF and a kidney transplant recipient, "The NKF Peers mentoring program is a lifeline to kidney patients who might feel isolated and depressed due to their diagnosis."

Who are the peer mentors?

Peer mentors are people living well with kidney disease and living donors. Some, like Pato Paez, become a mentor after their experience with the program.

According to Pato, NKF Peers "was the only thing that helped me keep it together," leading up to his kidney transplant. 

Every mentor goes through a comprehensive training program by the National Kidney Foundation to teach confidentiality, loss and grief, empathy, and active listening to ensure you get the support you need.

"Everybody has different problems and situations, and it's important to understand those situations so we can help them," said mentor Allen H. Nelson. "Listening is the most important thing that a mentor can do."

Are you living well with kidney disease? Or are you a living kidney donor who wants to help others? Share your experience with someone who really needs you. Become a mentor with NKF PEERs.

Support NKF to help change lives

National Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to support The National Kidney Foundation. Your contributions help support people with kidney disease and people considering becoming kidney donors.

Your donation will help change lives now.