Dialysis is a medical procedure that does the work of your kidneys – eliminating waste and unwanted water from the blood – when your kidneys are damaged or have failed. Dialysis typically is offered to patients with end-stage kidney failure, those who have lost 85 to 90 percent of their kidney function.

arm of elderly man in nursing home receiving hemodialysis and/or peritoneal dialysis

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis uses an artificial kidney, called a hemodialyzer, to remove waste, extra chemicals, and fluid from the blood. Before you can undergo dialysis, you will have a minor surgical procedure to create an access point to your blood vessels, usually on an arm or a leg. Once the access point exists, it allows your blood to travel through the hemodialyzer, which has special filters to clean it before it returns to your body. Hemodialysis can take about four hours and is usually done three times a week, typically at a hospital or dialysis center.

Peritoneal dialysis is a different type of procedure, where your blood gets cleaned within your body. You will have to undergo a surgical procedure to place a tube called a catheter inside your abdomen. During the dialysis treatment, a special fluid is put into your stomach to absorb the waste from your blood, then that fluid gets drained away. Peritoneal dialysis typically can be done at home.

Dialysis is not a cure for kidney disease. Patients on dialysis will need to have treatments for the rest of their lives unless they can get a kidney transplant.

Dialysis Treatment for Seniors

For seniors who require both senior care and dialysis, there are nursing homes with skilled nursing care that offer dialysis right at the facility or on-site. For those nursing homes and long-term care facilities that do not have dialysis on-site, the resident can receive outpatient treatments.

Nursing Homes with Dialysis 

When a senior needs regular dialysis treatments, there are many pros when residing within a nursing home equipped to perform the dialysis treatments. 

  1. There is no having to be transported to and from an outside dialysis treatment location. Not having to travel reduces wait time for transportation and is less tiring for the resident. 
  2. Receiving dialysis treatments at the resident's home facility is less stressful. In many instances, the resident knows the staff performing the dialysis treatments.
  3. There is less waiting time for appointments when performed in a nursing home or long-term care facility. 
  4. The medical team is fully aware of the dialysis treatment and can keep the resident cared for and comfortable.
  5. If the weather is terrible, the dialysis appointment does not have to be rescheduled or delayed. No transportation is needed, so there are no unfavorable road conditions on the way. 

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Outpatient Dialysis Treatments

When a senior requiring dialysis treatment resides in a nursing home that does not perform procedures, the resident is still able to get the required treatments. 

When living in a residence that does not offer dialysis therapies, it's an outpatient procedure. Nursing homes provide transportation to and from the treatment center. Once the resident returns, the skilled nursing staff can care for and keep the resident comfortable.