Content updated on September 30, 2021 - Medically reviewed by our Medical Advisory Committee

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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What to ask your SOCIAL WORKER

What to think about Questions


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

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

Are there support groups I can join?


What all does my health insurance cover?


Can I drive myself to dialysis?

What can I do if I can’t get a ride to dialysis?


Are there community resources that can help me with my living expenses?

What number should I call if I have questions?


What do I need to do if I want to travel?

Will my health insurance cover me if I need to go to a different dialysis clinic?

What number should I call if I have questions?

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What to ask your DIETITIAN

What to think about Questions


What changes do I need to make to what I eat and drink?

What should I look out for when eating restaurant food?

Are there tools that can help me keep track of what I eat and drink?


Where can I find tasty recipes for how I need to eat?

What seasonings can I use? Which ones should I not use?


What are “binders?” How do they work?

What kinds of binders do I need to take?

What happens if I forget to take my binders?

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What to ask your DOCTOR or NURSE

What to think about Questions


What happens during the dialysis treatment?

How often will I need dialysis?

How long does each dialysis session take?


What new medicines will I need to take?

Do I need to stop taking medicines prescribed by my other doctors?

What about over-the-counter medicine?


Is going to a clinic the only way to get dialysis?

Can I do dialysis at home instead of going to a clinic?

Can I do dialysis overnight?

Which dialysis treatment is best for my lifestyle?

How do I get a kidney transplant?


What is a vascular access?

What kind ofvascular access do I have?

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What to think about Questions


Are there any rules I need to know about the dialysis clinic?

Can I take a tour of the dialysis clinic?

What can I do to keep busy during dialysis?

Can family or friends keep me company during dialysis treatments?

What number should I call if I have questions?


How do I take care of my vascular access?

What could hurt my vascular access?

What should I wear for my dialysis treatments?

Can I eat during my dialysis treatments?

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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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