Home dialysis tips: power cuts and water supply failure

A storm or power cut can be a worrying prospect when you're dialysing at home. Kidney Care UK Trustee Maddy Warren has been on home dialysis for 25 years and shares her tips to help you manage any service disruptions to your treatment.

Maddy Warren is a Kidney Care UK Trustee and a passionate campaigner and advocate in the kidney community. She has been on home dialysis since she was a teenager, having had a failed kidney transplant attempt.

I had a power cut last night during my nocturnal haemodialysis (HD) session at home, so thought I would share some tips for home dialysis in storms or power cuts or if there's a water supply failure.

Most importantly, don’t panic or stress, you’ll be fine.

Tips to help manage short-term disruptions to home dialysis treatment

If you know a storm is coming, plan ahead

If you can, do an extra dialysis session the day before or change your schedule to ensure you are very well dialysed and/or can avoid dialysing during the storm itself.

Be a bit more careful with your diet and fluid if you know your power or water supply could be interrupted

This will also help if you have a power cut during dialysis and have to shorten or skip a session.

In the very short term as long as your potassium is a safe level you can catch up on fluid removal and other things once you can do a proper session. Always speak to your kidney team for advice and support.

Review/walk through your dialysis machine's manual procedures

We rarely have to do a manual washback procedure on an HD machine or a manual process for peritoneal dialysis (PD) so it's easy to get out of practice, but it’s good to be confident so when you’re in the moment you remember how. If in doubt, call your unit and ask them to help you refresh your knowledge.

Keep an emergency torch within reach of the machine

Don't forget to make sure the batteries are charged! I once had to do a manual washback in the pitch black in the days before mobile phones with torches, as I hadn’t changed the batteries in my emergency torch.

Check in with your unit

Over the years I have lost many blood circuits for various reasons and it’s always been fine. Obviously you want to avoid it but occasionally happens and unless you are already severely anaemic you’ll be ok. Just let your unit know it’s happened so they can keep an eye on your Hb (haemoglobin) levels.

Get in contact with your utility company

Find out from your utility provider what the issue is: was it just a brief problem or is there damage requiring repair work? If you think the power cut will be long, contact your unit as soon as possible so they can arrange a back-up dialysis slot for you at the unit.

Join the Priority Service Register (PSR)

If you are dialysing at home you are entitled to extra support from your utility companies. Join the PSR so you can benefit from the additional services.

Stay calm and breathe

If you are dialysing and there’s a power cut, you have time to handle it so try not to worry.

For HD I usually give it ten minutes with the machine still turning the blood pump using its battery backup, to see if the power comes back on before I abort the session and do a manual washback.

If you’re dialysing in stormy weather, take biscuits with you onto dialysis because a lot can be dealt with by eating a biscuit and taking a moment to breathe before you tackle the problem (this is not science...).

Please note that these tips were provided by an experienced patient but you should always speak to your kidney team for personal medical advice.

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