In non-dialysis supportive care, the focus is on treating your kidney disease with diet and medication. Your health care team will continue to support you with active, high quality medical care and will try to preserve your remaining kidney function for as long as possible. They’ll help you to manage your symptoms as your kidney function gets worse and give you the physical and emotional care you need as you approach the end of your life.
You have the right to make decisions about your own treatment, and that includes deciding that dialysis isn’t right for you. It’s the quality of your life and your time that’s important. Dialysis is meant to improve your life, not to cause harm or suffering, and it’s not for everyone.
You may decide not to start dialysis treatments at all, or to stop dialysis after a time. People make this decision for all kinds of reasons. You may have other serious medical conditions that dialysis won’t help, like heart failure or dementia. Or you may feel that the disruption to your life involved in having dialysis outweighs any health benefits you receive. You may simply want to live the last of your life focusing on family and friends without surgery or machines. Whatever you decide, you can change your mind at any time.
If you choose non-dialysis supportive care, your health care team will be with you every step of the way. You’ll have regular doctor visits and routine tests, and you’ll continue to take medications and make healthy food choices. As your kidneys fail and the end of your life approaches, you’ll be given palliative care to keep you comfortable. Your health care team will help you to maintain your quality of life as much as possible, and make sure your dignity is respected at all times. Death from kidney failure can take days or weeks, depending on your health, and is usually painless and peaceful.
If you decide to go this route, be sure to discuss it with your health care team so that they can help you to plan your treatment. You’ll also want to talk about your decision with your loved ones and help them to understand. Explain why you feel that this decision is the best one for you and talk about what you want to do with your remaining time. Often people like to have their doctor or other members of their health care team there during the discussion to answer questions and provide information on the support available in your area. The goal is to provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones as you live your life the way you choose.