Living with haemodialysis when nearing end of life

Scand J Caring Sci. 2012 Mar;26(1):45-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2011.00902.x. Epub 2011 May 24.


Aims and objectives: The aim of this study was to describe and to elucidate the meanings of being severely ill living with haemodialysis when nearing end of life.

Introduction: To have end stage renal disease and to be treated with maintenance haemodialysis implies being dependent on lifelong treatment. Several studies have reported that these patients suffer a high symptom burden and an impaired quality of life due to both disease and treatment. In the dialysis unit, where the focus is on handling technology and maintaining life, end of life care may be neglected or overlooked. Nevertheless, mortality rates show that about one-fourth of patients in haemodialysis care are in their last year of life.

Design: A qualitative interpretative design was used.

Methods: Serial qualitative interviews over a period of 12 months were conducted with eight patients (aged 66-87). Altogether text of 31 interviews was interpreted using a phenomenological hermeneutical method in three phases. The study is ethically approved.

Findings: The structural analysis resulted in 11 subthemes and thereafter the following three themes were formulated; being subordinate to the deteriorating body, changing outlook on life and striving for upheld dignity. The comprehensive interpretation revealed that being severely ill living with haemodialysis near the end of life means living with suffering simultaneously with reconciliation and well-being. Further, the meanings are understood as intertwined with being old.

Conclusions: Findings contribute to an increased awareness of the complexities of these patients' life worlds and their meanings, and thus of the importance to listen to their experiences and their understandings. Findings suggest that to integrate the philosophy of palliative care in haemodialysis units may improve care for patients who are living with haemodialysis and approaching the end of their lives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / psychology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life*
  • Renal Dialysis / psychology*
  • Sweden
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*