Starting dialysis often means creating a new normal for yourself and your family. There’s a lot to think about, from choosing a treatment option, to finding new ways to enjoy your favorite activities, to managing a new diet. The FIRST30 program is all about helping you through this period of adjustment. Here, you’ll find videos featuring people like you, who once were new to dialysis, as well as a checklist of important questions to ask your health care team.

Everyone’s experience starting dialysis is different. This checklist is meant to be a guide as you begin creating your new normal. It is not a complete list of all the questions people have when they start dialysis. If you have questions that aren’t on this list, write them down and ask your healthcare team at your next appointment.

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Week 1 checklist
  • What to think about

    Coping

  • What to ask

    How can I get help coping with all of these changes?

    What mood changes should I watch out for? How will I notice them?

  • Who can help

    Social worker

  • What to think about

    Your new diet

  • What to ask

    How do I need to change my diet?

    What kind of medicines can help keep me healthy?

  • Who can help

    Dietitian

  • What to think about

    Your dialysis treatment

  • What to ask

    How long will I be on dialysis?

    What happens during the dialysis treatment?

  • Who can help

    Doctor or nurse

  • What to think about

    Support in and out of the center

  • What to ask

    Can a friend/loved one keep me company during treatment?

    What number should I call if I have questions?

  • Who can help

    Technician

Week 2 checklist
  • What to think about

    Paying for treatment

  • What to ask

    What kind of insurance do I have?

    What does my insurance cover?

    Are there any community resources that can help me with my other costs of living?

  • Who can help

    Social worker

  • What to think about

    Preparing meals

  • What to ask

    Where can I find recipes that fit my new diet?

    What seasonings can I use? What should I avoid?

  • Who can help

    Dietitian

  • What to think about

    Your medicines

  • What to ask

    What new medicines do I need to take?

    Do I have to stop taking any of my other prescription or over-the-counter medicines?

  • Who can help

    Doctor or nurse

  • What to think about

    What to do during treatment

  • What to ask

    Can I eat during my dialysis treatment?

    How should I dress for treatment?

    What can I do to keep busy during dialysis?

  • Who can help

    Technician

Week 3 checklist
  • What to think about

    Transportation

  • What to ask

    Can I drive myself to dialysis?

    What transportation options do I have?

  • Who can help

    Social worker

  • What to think about

    Phosphate binders

  • What to ask

    How do phosphate binders work?

    What happens if I forget to take my binders?

  • Who can help

    Dietitian

  • What to think about

    Treatment options

  • What to ask

    Is in-center dialysis my only option?

    Which treatment option fits best with my lifestyle?

    Can my dialysis be performed overnight?

  • Who can help

    Doctor or nurse

  • What to think about

    What to know about my dialysis center

  • What to ask

    Are there any rules I need to know about at my dialysis center?

    Can I take a tour of the facility?

  • Who can help

    Technician

Week 4 checklist
  • What to think about

    Travel

  • What to ask

    How can I travel while I’m on dialysis?

    Will my health insurance coverage transfer to another facility?

  • Who can help

    Social worker

  • What to think about

    Supplements

  • What to ask

    How can I supplement my nutrition?

    Are there any tools to help me stay on track with my diet?

  • Who can help

    Dietitian

  • What to think about

    Treatment options

  • What to ask

    Should I be referred for a kidney transplant evaluation?

    What kind of vascular access do I need?

  • Who can help

    Doctor or nurse

  • What to think about

    Caring for your vascular access

  • What to ask

    How can I take care of my vascular access?

    What activities could hurt my vascular access?

  • Who can help

    Technician

Additional resources for dialysis patients

Free webinars

AKF hosts free, monthly educational webinars to help you and your loved ones learn more about living well with kidney disease. These live webinars will be led by kidney disease experts, and will feature a discussion about a different topic each month. You’ll be able to learn, ask questions and get answers in real time. Learn more about our educational webinars.

Kidney failure diet

Dialysis helps to do some of the work that your kidneys did when they were healthy. But dialysis does not work as well as healthy kidneys, and it cannot do everything that healthy kidneys do. Some waste and fluid may still build up in your body, especially between dialysis treatments. Over time, the extra waste and fluid in your blood can cause heart, bone and other health problems. If you have kidney failure/ESRD, you must monitor the amounts of fluid and certain nutrients you take in each day. This can help keep waste and fluid from building up in your blood and causing problems. Learn more about a kidney failure diet.

Treatment options

If you have ESRD, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. There is no cure for ESRD, but many people live long lives while having dialysis or after having a kidney transplant. Your doctor can help you figure out which treatment is best for you. Learn more about treatment options.

Financial assistance

If you are living with kidney failure (also called end-stage renal disease, or ESRD) and you can’t afford your health care expenses, the American Kidney Fund may be able to help. We provide assistance with health insurance premiums, transportation costs, prescription medications, and other expenses related to care. Learn more about our assistance programs for patients and how to apply.

Blog: Confessions of a first-time dialysis patient

Visit our blog Kidney Today to read about the experience of Steve Winfree, a first-time dialysis patient, who is sharing the story of his first month on dialysis.

Resources for professionals

Free webinars

AKF hosts free, monthly educational webinars to help kidney patients and their loved ones learn more about living well with kidney disease. This webinar is free and open to everyone. While CEUs are not be provided, professionals are welcome and encouraged to attend. These live webinars are led by kidney disease experts, and feature a discussion about a different topic each month. Learn more about our educational webinars.

Online courses with free CEs for professionals

The American Kidney Fund offers online courses that meet the continuing education requirements of health care professionals caring for patients with, or at risk for, kidney disease. Visit our site in early 2017 to sign up for a webinar focusing on helping kidney patient adjust to dialysis. Learn more about our online courses.