The Mighty Logo

Coping With Kidney Disease at Christmastime

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Christmas is a time where we are often told to overindulge, be merry and spirited and we are expected to drink lots and eat lots. Except, living with kidney failure dependent on dialysis, this means that many people with kidney disease will commonly feel more alienated, ill and incapacitated through seeing their peers drinking and eating and living to excess around the festive season when they know that if they tried they risk being hospitalized or worse.

You see, there are three things that many people with kidney disease and failure, especially individuals on dialysis, are limited in doing, or simply cannot do at all throughout Christmas:

1. Drink to Excess – Not only will alcohol introduce a needless amount of dangerous toxins into the body of someone with kidney disease, but the volume of any drink will also stay in their body, unable to be removed as a result of a loss of their kidney function. For example, in the instance of myself, I depend on the removal of the fluids I drink during the day through my dialysis machine each night. I have to stick to a 1 L fluid allowance, which is the average general fluid amount a kidney failure patient would need to stick to when their lives are sustained through dialysis.

2. Always Be Merry – We tend to be expected to attend more social events, family gatherings and obviously be merry on the actual 25th itself. To many people these are things to look forward to, but for someone with kidney disease/failure, we may feel chronically tired, irritable and prone to dizziness. These are just physical limitations of our condition. The mental impact of such social demands can mean that the supposedly happy Christmas period can turn into a time of anxiety and personal loneliness for a lot of people with kidney disease.

3. Meet Social Demand – When your kidneys don’t work properly, there’s a lot that an individual worries about. At Christmas though, not only do they have to worry about sustaining their body to a level where they can simply function, they also have to think about the social demands of the festive period. Meeting family and friends, going out, parties, waking early to open presents, evenings of celebration. These are all events at Christmas that for a person with debilitating kidney problems can lead to a lot of feelings of loneliness and despair.

So then, as a kidney patient myself, what do I propose as a solution? How I wish it was that easy to propose such a remedy for all the problems people with kidney problems face at Christmas, but I can’t. I can tell you just how you can help a little though, and it can be as simple as educating yourself about the symptoms of things such as fluid overload in kidney dialysis patients, signs of depression and anxiety, combating loneliness and making yourself aware of just how the kidneys and dialysis work.

In doing this you can prove to people with kidney problems – whether they have stage 1 kidney disease or stage 5 end-stage renal failure and are reliant on dialysis like myself – that they are being considered at this time of year. That’s an invaluable thing, to know there are able-bodied people who at least understand. It’s the best present you can give to somebody who may be struggling in silence with kidney disease at Christmas.

Getty Image by tommaso79

Originally published: December 5, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home