If you have chronic kidney disease, you may have questions about finding, keeping or changing jobs.

WHAT DOES REHABILITATION MEAN FOR ME?

As a kidney patient, your rehabilitation involves:

  • Return to a healthier state
  • Having a more positive outlook
  • Enjoying family and friends
  • Feeling useful

At first, your kidney disease may affect our self-confidence, making it hard for you to think about getting back to activities you used to enjoy. With the help of family, friends and the health care staff, you can begin to get used to your new lifestyle.

HOW TO IMPROVE PHYSICAL STRENGTH

Improving physical strength is an important part of rehabilitation. Dialysis treatments or a transplant may improve your health. However, changes in your body caused by kidney failure and treatment may lower your energy level and endurance. Healthy kidneys make a hormone, called erythropoietin (EPO), which helps your body make red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. When your kidneys are not working well, your body makes less EPO. This means you have fewer red blood cells. Low red blood cell count (anemia) is probably one reason why you get tired easily. A man-made form of this hormone is now used to treat anemia in kidney patients. This treatment has helped many patientsfeel stronger. To find out if this treatment could help you, speak to your doctor and to the other members of the health care team.

HOW TO FEEL STRONGER EMOTIONALLY

Because you have a chronic illness, you may feel afraid or discouraged when you think about the future. You may find the changes in your health hard to handle right now. You may also feel anger, guilt and depression. These feelings are normal and are part of the process of accepting your illness and treatment. You will begin to feel better about your illness and more in control of your life when youlearn more about kidney disease and your treatment.

It is important for you to know that depression can be treated. The first step is to change negative self-talk (“I’m never going to feel better”) to positive self-talk (“I’m getting a little better every day”). Even this can help if repeated several times a day. Talk about your feelings with your family, with friends and with members of your health care team. Your social worker is trained to help you with emotional concerns. He or she can provide counseling or help you and your family find community agencies that offer individual, family or group counseling. Your local National Kidney Foundation Affiliate can also provide information, understanding and support.

IS A LEAVE OF ABSENCE NECESSARY?

Many people who start on dialysis are able to return to work after a short time off. For those having a transplant, the time off may be longer. Many kidney patients look forward to returning to work as soon as possible. For these people, returning to work and its routine, helps them feel more normal. For others, thinking of returning to work may seem too much now. Talk to your doctor about when you should be able to return to work. Talk to your employer about your job and any changes that may be needed for you to return to work, such as flexible work hours and days. If you have a heavy job, you may want to talk about changing to a lighter job. If you do continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), you may need to talk about a place at work to do an exchange. Only you can decide when is the best time for you to return to work.

ARE THERE COMMUNITY RESOURCES TO HELP ME FIND A JOB?

There are public and private agencies to help people find jobs. Some of these agencies can help you decide what you want to do, write a resume and practice interviewing so you feel more confident. Agencies you may have heard of are:

  • City and State Personnel Departments/Job Service Centers
  • Federal Job Information Centers Veterans Action Centers
  • YMCA job banks
  • Job Corps
  • Employment agencies
  • Local or Regional Offices of Vocational Rehabilitation (Rehabilitation Services Administration)
  • State Client Assistance Program

Your social worker can help you with information about these agencies. Many National Kidney Foundation Affiliates have listings of local rehabilitation agencies. Rehabilitation can also include going back to school. Guidance counselors at local schools or colleges can help you. Some agencies may help pay for training.