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

What to think about What to ask Who can help


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

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

Social worker


How do I need to change my diet?

What kind of medicines can help keep me healthy?



How long will I be on dialysis?

What happens during the dialysis treatment?

Doctor or nurse


Can family or friends keep me company during treatment?

What number should I call if I have questions?


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Week 2

What to think about What to ask Who can help


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?

Social worker


Where can I find recipes that fit my new diet?

What seasonings can I use? What should I avoid?



What new medicines do I need to take?

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

Doctor or nurse


Can I eat during my dialysis treatment?

How should I dress for treatment?

What can I do to keep busy during dialysis?


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Week 3

What to think about What to ask Who can help


Can I drive myself to dialysis?

What transportation options do I have?

Social worker


How do phosphate binders work?

What happens if I forget to take my binders?



Is in-center dialysis my only option?

Which treatment option fits best with my lifestyle?

Can my dialysis be performed overnight?

Doctor or nurse


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

Can I take a tour of the facility?


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Week 4

What to think about What to ask Who can help


How can I travel while I’m on dialysis?

Will my health insurance coverage transfer to another facility?

Social worker


How can I supplement my nutrition?

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



Should I be referred for a kidney transplant evaluation?

What kind of vascular access do I need?

Doctor or nurse


How can I take care of my vascular access?

What activities could hurt my vascular access?


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WATCH: Advice from patients

FIRST30: The importance of family support

FIRST30: Advice for people new to dialysis

FIRST30: What to expect from dialysis

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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 are led by kidney disease experts, and feature a discussion about a different topic each month. Join us 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 do, and it cannot do everything that healthy kidneys do. Between dialysis treatments, waste and fluid build up in your body. Over time, having extra waste and fluid in your blood can lead to heart, bone and other health problems. If you have kidney failure/ESRD, it is important to work with your dietitian to learn how much of certain nutrients and how much fluid you should take in each day to stay healthy. Sticking to this special diet can help prevent the problems that can happen when waste and fluid build up in your body. 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 medicines, 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.

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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.

Take our free online continuing education (CE) course on Helping New Patients Adjust to Dialysis.

The goals of this course are to:

  1. Identify ways to help their patients adjust to life on dialysis during their first 30 days.
  2. Understand how physical and emotional symptoms act as barriers to adjustment.
  3. Identify tools and strategies that can be used to determine patients' needs.
  4. Understand how to apply these tools and strategies to overcome barriers and promote positive adjustment to dialysis treatment.

CE credits: 1.00 Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR);
1.20 National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists (NANT); 1.00 National Association of Social Workers (NASW); 1.00 National Commission for Health Education Creditialing (NCHEC); 1.00 Attendance

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