Veronica Purcell asked the question:

I’m traveling with my mom and she’s on dialysis and in a wheelchair. Where do I start planning?

Although this may sound daunting Veronica, the  good news? With a little bit of pre-planning, it’s quite possible for your parent to safely travel and continue treatments while on vacation!

Now, as usual, before booking a trip, it’s always best to check with your parent’s doctors to ensure they are healthy enough for travel. Assuming the doctor gives the OK, it’s time to start making plans!

Many dialysis centers offer assistance with finding treatment centers in various locations throughout the world. The biggest challenge (as you probably know from your own center) is getting a slot in a dialysis center, particularly if you’re traveling to a popular vacation spot. Start your planning at least 6 – 8 weeks in advance (even longer if you’re traveling over the holidays or during peak travel periods). You may also want to hold off on booking flights until you’ve confirmed a center has availability (be sure and ask about the dates/times as there is no guarantee they’ll be able to accommodate your specific requests). Be prepared to contact several centers in order to find a center that can accommodate your parent.

As soon as you arrive in your destination, confirm your appointment times with the center. If you prefer, you can also schedule a pre-appointment to visit the center ahead of time (although don’t just show up, always book in advance with the nurse). It’s best if your primary dialysis center faxes a complete medical work-up prior to your arrival (so the transient center has an opportunity to review before you show up for treatment). In addition you should plan on hand-carrying a copy of all your records with you.

To accommodate a transient patient, centers typically will require copies of the following paperwork:

  • medical history and recent physical exam reports
  • recent lab results, EKG and chest x-ray
  • your dialysis prescription and 3 to 5 recent treatment records
  • dialysis access type
  • special needs or dialysis requirements
  • insurance information
  • all prescription medications (including any that must be given during dialysis treatment)
  • contact information for all your parent’s doctors and your at-home dialysis center

dialysis centerEven if a transient center does not specifically ask for all the above, it’s wise to carry it with you anyway in case your parent has an issue while on the road. Although the dialysis center you visit while on vacation can assist if your parent becomes ill, it’s also advisable to carry a list of local hospitals in case your parent needs emergency care (even while sightseeing, carry all your parent’s medical information with you just in case).

Veronica, I’m guessing your mom goes in to a center vs. home hemodialysis. Just in case she does administer it herself (or for anyone else reading this who does it at home), it’s probably easier to do in-center treatment while on vacation vs. hauling all the equipment with you while you’re away. However, discuss with your parent and his/her existing dialysis care team if continuing home dialysis while on the road is advisable. If your parent opts for home dialysis, it’s best to know the location of the closest center in case there is an issue. Contact the dialysis center to let them know you’re in the area and confirm their emergency procedures should you have an issue.

Finally, if you’re considering taking a cruise, check out Dialysis at Sea Cruises, a company specializing in the treatment of hemodialysis care while onboard cruise ships.

Medicare and/or your parent’s secondary insurance may or may not cover dialysis while you’re on the road (including any doctor’s fees while at the transient center). Contact your insurance carriers prior to departure to confirm coverage.

As with any aging parent, don’t overdue the activities and build in plentiful of down time so you both can relax. A parent on dialysis can tire more readily and no one is having fun when they’re cranky! Check out the National Kidney Foundation’s website for additional recommendations when traveling with a parent on dialysis (www.kidney.org).

Anyone travel with a parent on dialysis and have additional recommendations? I would love to hear from you before Veronica gets too far in her planning,