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Assisted Living Facilities with Dialysis

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Seniors who suffer from chronic kidney disease and either currently live in an assisted living community or are considering moving to an assisted living facility may find this assisted living with dialysis guide helpful. Assisted living communities are residential locations intended for seniors or other adults who need help completing daily tasks. Seniors who may suffer from memory conditions, disabilities, kidney problems or who may need help with mobility are good candidates assisted living. Caregivers will work with seniors on a daily basis to help with tasks such as grooming, eating, bathing, and taking medication. These types of facilities are intended for seniors who require a minimal to moderate amount of care. Those who require dedicated medical care or higher levels of care may be more suited to living in a nursing care home or skilled care community. There are assisted living communities available that provide dialysis services (typically off-site), however not all assisted living homes do. In this guide, we will explore the various assisted living options available to seniors who have kidney issues and require dialysis. First, let us discuss some background on most common causes of chronic kidney disease.

What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease results in a decrease in the ability of the kidney to function over time. It is more commonly seen in older adults and seniors. It can also be seen in middle-aged or even younger people when it is a result of lifestyle choices or other diseases. Chronic kidney disease can be caused by various ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism, or even trauma to the actual organ. Most people, including seniors, who suffer from chronic kidney disease will not be aware there is a problem until the condition has progressed to the later stages. This is especially hard for seniors who may have other age-related conditions that produce similar symptoms.

The last stage of chronic kidney disease is end-stage renal disorder, at which point the kidneys are completely unable to function. The only treatment for end-stage renal disorder is a kidney transplant or lifelong dialysis. For seniors who are living in an assisted living facility, managing end-stage renal disorder or chronic kidney disease with dialysis can be a concern. After all, at least 46% of seniors over the age of 70 suffer from chronic kidney disease, and this number increases every year.

What is Dialysis?

Dialysis is a treatment for seniors and other adults who suffer from kidney disease or who have a compromised level of kidney function. The kidneys are tasked with removing waste and toxins from the blood. When the kidneys are unable to filter these substances out of the blood properly, the concentration levels will increase. Once these levels reach a certain point, it will cause illness and eventually, death.

Dialysis treatments are performed using a machine that takes blood out of a person. It then filters it through a complex process outside of the body inside of the dialysis machine and circulates the clean blood back into the bloodstream. This is a complex medical process that keeps the toxins in the blood at a tolerable level. Most people who undergo dialysis treatments are also on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Dialysis treatments allow seniors and other adults to live while waiting for a new organ. For most people, dialysis is a permanent treatment process they must continue in order to survive, as the only other option is to get a transplant, or continue treatments. In rare circumstances, dialysis treatments are only a temporary measure while the kidney recovers from an injury or another ailment.

Is Assisted Living A Good Fit for Seniors on Dialysis?

Some seniors may suffer from conditions that require them to take regular dialysis treatments. These treatments are performed with the help of a highly skilled medical team. In addition to a skilled medical team, advanced equipment and a sterile environment are required. There are very few, if any, assisted living facilities that offer onsite dialysis for senior residents.

Don’t be discouraged, although on-site facilities are not usually available, seniors who reside in an assisted living facility may schedule out-patient dialysis treatments. Each assisted living location will have specific rules and guidelines, so it is important to speak with an enrollment manager ahead of confirming your choice to stay and ask questions in regard to how dialysis is handled at the facility.

Some assisted living locations offer palliative care programs as well as hospice programs. If a facility offers these, then a senior will be able to access dialysis though one of them. Of course, they will also need to meet the requirements of hospice or palliative care in order to use outpatient dialysis while enrolled in an assisted living community. This is to ensure that the needs of seniors who must take dialysis treatments are met.

Dialysis Treatment Options

Once a senior starts dialysis, it becomes a critical part of their routine that also has a drastic impact on their life. There are several choices for dialysis treatments, though all require a small surgical procedure to prepare the filtration site. Depending on a senior's age and other health concerns, some forms of dialysis may be preferable to others.

In-center hemodialysis is a treatment that would require a senior to visit a treatment center or clinic several times a week. Those living in assisted living facilities may or may not have access to transportation for such frequent visits. Each visit will last about four hours with a six to eight-hour recovery time. Recovery can be made at home, or in the case of a senior living at a facility, their room. Seniors will generally need more assistance than usual following a dialysis treatment due to general weakness, fatigue, and fogginess. Not every location will have the proper staff to offer extra support, so make sure that any assisted living community you consider is set up for dialysis patients.

Hemodialysis can also be provided at home with equipment that will be installed in a fixed location. For seniors living in an assisted living community, this is not usually an option. Dialysis is a complex medical procedure that can only be administered with proper training. Although insurance and Medicaid/Medicare typically cover the cost, assisted living facilities do not provide the skilled nursing care that is needed for hemodialysis.

Another form is peritoneal dialysis. In this type of treatment, the blood is not filtered outside of the body, but rather the abdomen lining is used to filter the blood. Seniors will have a catheter that is located in the abdomen that will allow the cycling of blood in and out of the area. Although this form of dialysis is gentler for seniors, it has some negative side effects in the form of heart complications and weight gain.

Seniors, Assisted Living and Dialysis

Dialysis is a lifesaving treatment for seniors who are suffering from kidney failure or kidney dysfunction. The majority of seniors who suffer from kidney disease are over the age of 70. Many seniors are able to live on their own well past their 70’s, however, there is a larger number of elderly adults who reside in various types of senior communities. Seniors who live in assisted living homes or even retirement communities may find accessibility an issue. Anyone who needs dialysis may face a certain level of difficulty, but it is more complicated for seniors, especially those living in a residential care setting.

Many seniors living in assisted living communities have problems with mobility or are unable to drive. This can be due to age, or simply inability. While friends and family may be able to accommodate a senior by transporting them to and from their facility to the health center, it is a long-term commitment. Most seniors on dialysis must receive treatment anywhere from three to five times per week simply to survive. In addition to actual blood cleaning treatments, there are medications that must be taken in conjunction with dialysis. Caregivers in assisted living facilities are able to help seniors maintain their medication schedule, but they are unable to spot changes or make changes to dosages.

In order to manage CKD while on dialysis, a senior’s body chemistry must be carefully adjusted. This means maintaining the proper amount of phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. The concern about assisted living for seniors living with CKD is that these communities do not offer skilled nursing care as a standard service. Seniors who are already residing in an assisted living community who develop CKD may be asked to move to a nursing home or upgrade to a skilled nursing care facility for their own safety.

Most seniors who suffer from CKD and are taking dialysis treatments will also have other serious health conditions. Health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure are the most common. Many seniors living in an assisted living setting will suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure, which are manageable on their own. When these are paired with CKD, it can truly prevent a senior from taking care of themselves. As a result, there are few assisted living care centers that will accept seniors who are on long term dialysis treatments. That being said, there are some instances in which dialysis is only temporary, and in these cases, most assisted living facilities will make temporary adjustments accordingly.

The Benefits of Assisted Living for Seniors on Dialysis

Though it may seem that nursing homes or skilled nursing communities are the only options for seniors who need dialysis, there are plenty of assisted living homes that cater to this condition. Assisted living homes offer care for a wide variety of senior concerns, and managing chronic illnesses is one of them. Providing care for seniors with CKD is one of the high points that make assisted living communities so attractive.

Assisted living facilities for seniors on dialysis provides the mental support of knowing someone is there for you through your journey with CKD. Dialysis providers always suggest that anyone living with kidney disease should have at least one care partner, not only seniors. Residing in an assisted living community will give seniors, not one, but a full team of care partners that are able to provide assistance around the clock, every day of the year. Depending on the location of the assisted living home, some dialysis centers are partnered with the facility. This can make appointments easier to schedule and, in many cases, transportation will be provided by the health center or the assisted living facility.

Emotional Support from Assisted Living for Seniors on Dialysis

Living in an assisted living home for seniors with CKD is not all about dialysis. Assisted living homes also provide seniors with much needed emotional support in their times of weakness. Often, there are also other seniors in the home that are experiencing the same things which can provide an excellent basis for support and personal connection. Many seniors say they feel isolated or depressed as they undergo dialysis treatment. This is in part due to not having people around who understand the stress and pain that comes from chronic illness. When living in an assisted living community, seniors will have friends who are going through the same struggle to connect with.

Assisted living for seniors with dialysis offers support for all of the little details that come from dealing with CKD. Of course, dialysis is a big portion of managing CKD, but there are also medications and recovery care to consider. Caregivers in an assisted living home offer compassionate care, all hours of the day and night, with a smile.

Choosing an Assisted Living Community for Seniors who Need Dialysis

Every senior’s journey with kidney failure or kidney malfunction is different. The needs of a person will change depending on their age, secondary conditions, and other factors. Choosing an assisted living facility that offers care for seniors with dialysis is a very personal choice. It is important to choose one that is located near a treatment center or one that offers on-site dialysis options. Depending on your insurance or payment plan, you may want to find a facility that accepts your preferred payment.

Ask questions about the facility’s experience with caring for seniors who need dialysis, and also ask about any discharge thresholds or other important details. Choosing a facility that is partnered with a dialysis treatment center nearby may also lower your expenses and make travel more convenient. Assisted living has a lot to offer seniors who need help at this critical juncture of their lives, so make sure to find one that suits your needs and your personality.

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