If you are new to kidney hemodialysis, vacations might seem like the way of the past. It is challenging with dialysis three times a week, no doubt about it, so you need to make the most of the off dialysis days you have and planning ahead will help with that.
First things first. Where do you want to go? What locale gives you the most breathing room where you feel like you are truly away? Is it the mountains, the sea, a city or just someplace new?
Many dialysis patients feel they need to stay in the US to get proper treatment, but kidney dialysis is done globally. If you want to plan a trip outside of the US, make sure to plan 6-8 weeks in advance. The National Kidney Foundation provides Travel Tips and more details here.
In the United States, there are 10 major dialysis providers with Fresenius and Davita being the largest. Typically 2-3 weeks advance planning is sufficient unless it is a popular destination. Each has their own travel service department to help you in finding a dialysis center location (links above) and they are typically open Mon-Fri, so think about your plans on the weekend and call first thing Monday morning. Your home dialysis center should also have a coordinator to help you with finding a location.
In the best of world's once you have picked your destination your home dialysis center coordinator will do all the work for you, but sometimes you need to do it yourself. Here’s how:
1. Let your dialysis center coordinator know the dates you are looking for, even if they don't have time to work on it, keeping them up to date on your dates could help someone else.
2. Look for dialysis centers near the destination and compare.
Some useful sites include: Medicare.gov & ProPublica
Key tip: It is always good to evaluate centers, read reviews and leave remarks to help the next person that goes to that dialysis center.
3. Decide on the best times for you. Early morning (6am) gives you the whole day to enjoy your location, but for some that is way too early, and sleep is more important. Do what you know works for you! You know your body better than anyone else.
4. Pick 1-3 dialysis centers, call your first choice and ask them if they have the date and time you’re looking for and then go down your list from there.
Key tips: If you find a location that you like but they are full, ask them when is the best time to book for that location and mark your calendar so you remember to request ahead of time for your next trip. You can also ask to be put on a wait list in case someone cancels.
5. Once the date/time has been confirmed at the location you are visiting, ask your in house dialysis center counselor to send your records to the dialysis center location you are visiting. This is to ensure you are given the same treatment as you would have at your home location.
6. Make your transportation arrangements. Don’t forget airlines also provide wheelchair transportation if needed.
7. Most important of all: Have a great trip!