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Work and travel

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Will I have to quit work when I start dialysis?
No. You should not have to quit work when you start dialysis. Keeping your job provides benefits including: income, health insurance, self-esteem, and friendships. Working on dialysis tends to pose two challenges. The first challenge is scheduling your job, dialysis, and the rest of your life so they don’t conflict.

If you choose hemodialysis, talk with your center about scheduling your treatments so you miss as little work as possible, or ask if home hemodialysis is available in your area.

Choosing peritoneal dialysis, which is a type of home dialysis, may make it easier to work. If you use an automated cycler at night while you sleep, you will be free of dialysis during the day. If you choose to do manual exchanges, all you might need is a longer lunch break and a clean room to do an exchange during the day. Many people do this successfully. You may need a few weeks or months to adjust to dialysis, and then a period of working part-time before you get back up to speed and can return to work full-time.

Can I travel on dialysis?
Yes. With proper planning, you can travel while on dialysis. Start small—with day trips and quick weekend getaways. Then you can build up confidence and work up to longer vacations.

If you are on hemodialysis, you can reserve a space at a center where you will be traveling. To find a center, use resources like DaVita’s dialysis center locator. You can also call DaVita Guest Services at 1-800-244-0680 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST).

It’s best to make travel arrangements at least two months ahead of time, even earlier for popular destinations like Florida or at heavy travel times such as the holidays. Special trips, including cruises, are also available for people on dialysis.

Your center can forward a copy of your dialysis prescription and other records to the center you will visit. It is also a good idea to carry a copy of your medical information with you, and to call ahead to be sure the center you will be visiting has all the information they need. Call to confirm your appointment when you arrive at your destination.

If you have Medicare and travel in the United States, Medicare will pay its usual portion of your hemodialysis costs. Private insurance will also generally pay for dialysis treatments you receive away from home. Some plans will even pay for overseas treatments. The exception is managed care, which may not pay for treatments outside of your home area. However, if you have managed care and Medicare, your travel dialysis center can charge Medicare for 80% of the treatment cost and leave you with a much smaller bill. Check with your insurance provider to find out details of what is covered when you travel.

If you do peritoneal dialysis, you can take your supplies with you or have them shipped to your destination. If you are on Medicare and are traveling outside the United States, Medicare may not cover the cost of the solution. Check with your PD nurse. Call before you leave home to be sure that your supplies have arrived. Your PD nurse can help you learn safe ways to do your exchanges while camping or taking a driving trip.

With resourcefulness and determination, you can travel on dialysis. See George Harper’s tale of arranging to be his own Medicare supplier so he could travel the U.S. while doing hemodialysis in a motor home at: