By Kristina Hernandez, Satellite Healthcare
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 locally in terms of peer support groups. You can also connect with a peer by phone through NKF’s Peer mentoring program by calling 1-855-653-7337 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 programs connect people living with the same disease and enable them to share common, real-life experiences. As a result, those who participate in peer support programs learn to better manage their own health and cope with the challenges dialysis brings.
• Helps kidney patients adjust to living with a chronic illness
• Improves well-being
• Decreases feelings of isolation and depression
• Promotes better self-management
• Relieves fears
Many patients who have participated in a peer support program 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.
A clinic in Laredo, TX offers a support group that meets twice a month. This is how one patient describes his experience with the group: “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.”
Support groups and programs throughout the country are helping patients live fuller, happier lives. If a support group doesn’t exist in your area, consider talking to your social worker about creating one or contact the National Kidney Foundation’s Peer program to be connected with a peer mentor by phone.
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.