Keep your home warm – Colder darker nights often end up in bigger heating bills, but when it comes to keeping your home warm it’s about working smarter not harder. You are probably already doing all that you can to keep costs down but often simple tips like closing the doors and turning off radiators in rooms you don’t use as much will help keep your home at a stable temperature. Ensuring radiators aren’t blocked by furniture (or clothes drying on them) will allow the heat to circulate better and ensure you make the most of your heating. If you have smart controls or can use timers make sure you do so that you can heat your home without wasting energy.
Keep yourself warm – When it’s cold its always better to wear lots of thinner layers than one big thick jumper. Wool, cotton and fleece fabrics are often warmer and make sure you are wearing socks and slippers indoors to keep your feet warm. If you boil a kettle for a warming drink, or a hot water bottle, only boil what you need to save energy.
Check you’re receiving all the benefits you’re entitled to - Sometimes when our Advocacy Team are speaking to a patient they will learn that the patient has found themselves in debt and is unable to make ends meet, or that they’ve suddenly found themselves unexpectedly unwell and unable to work; leaving them unsure of what financial assistance is available to them. In these circumstances the Welfare and Benefits Health Check might be able to help. Since we launched the service in 2018 we’ve delivered over £1,000,000 in benefit claims and additional income to patients. We also often hear from people who don’t realise they are entitled to certain assistance, such as the winter fuel payments or that the big energy companies have Trusts or Funds in place to help them out if they are in financial difficulty (NB this page needs updating first). If you are struggling with the relentlessness of kidney disease, knowing that your utilities are not going to be cut off or where your next meal is coming from makes a huge difference.
Keep an eye on the weather – Sudden and bad weather can take us by surprise and in the winter the risk of snow, ice and freezing temperatures can be a real worry for kidney patients who can feel the cold so much more than everyone else. Whilst most people can just hunker down, if you need to get to a dialysis session at a hospital that’s around an hours’ drive away every other day it can be a real worry. Make sure you keep an eye on the weather forecast, if particularly bad weather is due we usually know a few days in advance, and the Met Office will issue weather warnings if severe weather is likely in your area. If you can get out beforehand make sure you’re supplied with medication, food, water and torches and candles (don’t forget the matches). If you can’t get to the shops ask a friend, neighbour, or family member if they can get these for you. If you need to drive make sure that you check conditions local to you; make sure you have blankets, food, drink, a shovel, de-icer, a phone (with emergency numbers stored in it) and a charger with you too!
Be prepared – Power cuts are not a regular occurrence but when they happen they can be a real worry, especially if you do your dialysis at home. It’s really important that you are on the Priority Services Register; if your power is cut off they will prioritise getting yours back on and as a kidney patient you usually qualify. If your power does get cut off you can call 105 to report it and get the latest updates for your area. Making sure you have plenty of blankets and warm clothes will ensure you can keep warm, and having some snacks and water will help if the power takes longer to be restored.
Eat well – When you have kidney disease it’s so important that you eat well and the topic of food and drink is one we are regularly asked about. Particularly for people who are on dialysis, food is so important and cooking healthy nutritious meals from scratch is often the last thing on your mind when you’re recovering from your last dialysis session. The charity set up our Kidney Kitchen to help ensure that people with kidney disease could focus on all the foods they can eat, and we work with specialist dietitians to create recipes that are suitable. Each recipe has ‘food facts’ to help explain why it is suitable as well as advice how to adapt for different diets or requirements. We’ve got lots of warming wintery dishes, many of which serve 6-8 people so can be made up ahead of time and portioned out to be reheated; perfect for when you are feeling really unwell but need nutritious foods to help with recovery.
Drink Smart – Whilst people with kidney disease don’t generally need to cut out alcohol altogether, much like the general population it’s always best to apply the rule of moderation. Our Choosing Alcohol Wisely guide explains which drinks may have lower potassium or phosphates, but its always best to speak to your GP or kidney doctor so that they can provide tailored advice for you based on your condition and general wellbeing.
Stay active - Over the last 18 months we’ve seen many of the people we support struggle with being as active as they used to be. Whether it was following strict shielding guidance and struggling to leave the house, to finding it hard to exercise away from other people; many of the people we speak to have been trying to keep up with their old routines. We all know that with a healthier, fitter body and mind comes a host of other benefits, including better management of stress and improved quality of sleep, but we also know just how hard it can be when everything feels so out of control. It’s useful to remember that we’ve all shown resilience – our lives have been turned upside down and we continue to live through uncertain times. Many of us have had to adopt a new way of living to protect ourselves from infection. So, I always try to remind people I speak to, as well as myself and colleagues too, that improving physical fitness can mean anything from stretching exercises whilst sitting in a chair to long-distance running. And both (or anything in between) are ok; we are all different, we don’t have to all be marathon runners, but simple stretches and making small changes such as walking to the shops rather than driving all make a difference over time. You can always check out the exercise section of the Kidney Care UK website for ideas, but remember that if you’ve not been able to exercise for some time, or are looking to increase the amount of exercise you do, then always speak to your GP or kidney doctor to make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard, or if they can recommend a particular type of exercise that might be suitable.
Ensure your medicine cabinet is stocked – In the run up to Christmas there is usually so much to get done, but it’s really important that you remember to ensure your prescriptions are ordered and collected before pharmacies and shops close for Christmas. This advice is particularly useful if you plan to be away from home for a short period of time.
Stay on top of Covid19 guidance – As we approach some uncertain months ahead, it’s really important we do all that we can to keep ourselves safe. The Kidney Care UK website has guidance and advice specifically for kidney patients. We review this regularly and update it every week so you know it will have up to date advice and guidance for you. As tempting as it is to avoid the news as much as possible, if you do need to go to work, spend time out and about and plan to see family and friends make sure you know what the most up to date guidance is.
We know the last couple of years have been difficult for many people, but we hope that all of our supporters are able to stay well this winter. We believe you shouldn’t face kidney disease alone; throughout the year we provide emotional, practical and financial support and if you need help, please get in touch
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