Chronic kidney disease can be overwhelming at first. Learning all you can about kidney disease is the first step toward coping with this illness. Many people who have chronic kidney disease continue to work full time, care for their children, stay involved in religious and leisure activities and travel.

Patients who have chronic kidney disease are strongly encouraged to attend educational programs offered by the renal team at Washington University. Programs are comprehensive and include lectures by nurses, dietitians, social workers, transplant coordinators and patients.

The half-day programs are scheduled regularly throughout the year and are the perfect opportunity for you to learn more and ask questions. From our long-standing experience, all patients who attend these types of programs feel less anxious about dealing with their kidney disease.

Current educational programs

  • First things first: Your kidneys and how they work
  • Successfully managing your kidney disease
  • Peritoneal dialysis: What you need to know
  • Kidney transplant

What caregivers need to know

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 1 in 5 Americans is a caregiver. While it is always beneficial to have a spouse or caregiver understand the lifestyle changes necessary to deal with chronic kidney disease, it is important that patients with failing kidneys understand how to handle their own illness and symptoms.

Caregivers are welcome to participate in the care of loved ones and, if interested, will be taught the warning signs of kidney failure and the symptoms of common complications. Caregivers also can take an active role in understanding dietary recommendations, especially when it comes to meal planning.

To avoid emotional and physical burnout, caregivers are encouraged to take time for themselves and do something positive to relieve any stress that may occur.

Coping with kidney disease

Kidney disease affects nearly every part of your body. If you experience unusual tiredness, restlessness, irritability, or confusion, report them to your health care team. These may be signs that your kidney disease is getting worse. You and your family may be anxious and overwhelmed with all of the decisions and plans you have to make.

These emotions are normal and expected. Talk to your family, health care team or spiritual advisor for help with coping with the stress associated with being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.

Our renal team includes social workers that can assist with coping strategies and identification of resources for vocational and financial assistance. They also can assist in developing affordable medication plans, if you are concerned with the cost of your prescribed medications.