By Laura Gonzalez, LMSW
For dialysis patients, foreign travel need not be an unobtainable goal. In fact, dialysis patients of all modalities – in-center hemodialysis, home hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis – should be encouraged to look at foreign travel as a doable adventure.
Here are a few tips to consider if you’re making foreign travel plans on dialysis:
- For domestic travel, start making arrangements with a dialysis center in the city you are planning to visit at least 30 days before departure. For foreign travel, getting started even earlier is a good idea. Generally, dialysis centers are welcoming to travelers, within the context of their capacities. Patients know how hard it is to secure favored chair times in their local centers. Patients travelling abroad should plan on encountering some less desirable times.
- One of the major hurdles to foreign travel is the cost of dialysis. Government insurance plans – Medicare and Medicaid – don’t cover any healthcare costs outside the U.S. If you have private insurance, check before you go. Foreign travel insurance policies are generally designed to handle medical emergencies, not ongoing care like dialysis.
Make sure you understand the costs before making a deal with a dialysis provider in a foreign country.
- Travelling with a cycler is possible but always keep a Plan B in mind in case a problem develops. Repair services are few in foreign markets and non-existent aboard a cruise liner in the middle of the ocean.
- If you’re planning to visit relatives abroad, start the search for a dialysis center by asking friends and family for recommendations. If not, try the good old Google search or ask your dialysis center for help.
- Make sure you ask your dialysis center for a packet of information containing your dialysis order and recent lab work. This gives the foreign dialysis center a place to start in providing care.
- Keep in mind that if you plan on being gone for more than 30 days, many dialysis centers will not hold your chair. You will have to go through the re-admission process once you return, including a review of finances plus new lab work and a visit with a doctor.
- Check with all your other doctors before you travel and carry telephone numbers for all their medical providers in case of emergency.
- Make sure you have an ample supply of all medications. Travelling with medications in the original pharmacy bottle with the prescribing doctor’s name on the label should cut down on any confusion at the border.
- International travel takes planning for supplies to be shipped. These arrangements usually take months of planning. Some companies don’t ship to other countries. Others require the signature of a doctor in the country you are visiting.
Even after travel arrangements are complete, patients and their caregivers aren’t done. They need to review dietary restrictions and exercise regimens. It’s important to maintain as normal a routine as possible.
But travel shouldn’t be a barrier to reconnecting with friends and family or enriching your life by visiting new countries. Social and cultural interactions are beneficial for the patients, so don’t be afraid to start making plans. Bon voyage!
More travel tips.