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Hospice and Dialysis: What Are My Options?

Hospice and Dialysis: What Are My Options?

Kidney failure is a heartbreaking diagnosis. It can leave you and your loved ones questioning what to do next. Unfortunately, it’s a widespread issue as more than 661,000 Americans suffer from kidney failure every year. 

Kidney failure takes away your body’s ability to function normally. To combat kidney failure, in 1943, a physician named Willem Koiff developed the first artificial kidney. The use of an artificial kidney, also known as dialysis, became the primary treatment for renal failure. Of the more than 661,000 Americans with kidney failure, 468,000 individuals use dialysis for treatment.

While dialysis can help patients extend their life, their condition may worsen, which can deteriorate their quality of life. With any disease, when a patient’s doctor has determined that they have six months or less to live, they may recommend hospice care. How does this affect patients with renal failure? Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Dialysis Used For?

Dialysis is a treatment used to help patients whose kidneys aren’t functioning correctly. Renal failure happens when the kidney can no longer filter and remove waste that is in the blood. When this waste remains in the blood, it begins to harm organs and other internal systems. 

To remove these wastes, patients use dialysis, which acts as an artificial kidney. Here are three types of dialysis that can treat a patient’s kidney failure:

  • Hemodialysis is the most common type of dialysis. It removes waste and extra fluid with a dialysis machine that acts as an artificial kidney. Blood flows out of the vascular entry point into the artificial kidney for filtration and then back into the body. 
  • Peritoneal dialysis uses a fluid called dialysate to absorb waste in the bloodstream. The dialysate flows out of the body through the peritoneum, the membrane lining the cavity of the patient’s abdomen, and exits the body through a catheter. 
  • Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT) is an intensified version of hemodialysis that is used for patients with acute kidney failure. It’s a slower form of dialysis as it continuously cycles blood throughout the day.

Hospice and Dialysis: Can I Undergo Dialysis While in Hospice Care?

In most cases, you can’t undergo dialysis while in hospice care. This limitation is due to Medicare’s classification of dialysis as a curative treatment for patients with end-stage renal disease as their primary diagnosis

The only exception to this rule is for patients with end-stage renal disease paired with another terminal diagnosis, such as cancer. In this case, the patient could theoretically continue to receive dialysis while in hospice care. 

Unfortunately, many patients with end-stage renal failure are forced to make a difficult decision when at the end of life. Someone with kidney failure should only decide after talking with:

  • Their loved ones
  • Their health care professional
  • A spiritual adviser or counselor

If your doctor determines that you have six months or less to live, you can consider enrolling in hospice care. Hospice care focuses on symptom management, which can add quality of life to a person’s final chapter of life.

If you think hospice is right for you, speak to your hopsice care team about your options before making your decision.

Are you looking for hospice care in the Cape Girardeau or Poplar Bluff area? Contact Crown Hospice today to see how we can help you make the most of the time you have.

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