Chronic kidney disease stage 5 is a global health challenge in the context of population ageing across the world. The range of treatment options available to patients at all ages has increased and includes transplantation and dialysis. However, these options are often seen as inappropriate for older frailer patients who are now offered the option of conservative kidney management, which is presented as a non-invasive alternative to dialysis, involving symptom management and addressing psychosocial needs. In this study, we conducted qualitative interviews with 26 close persons caring for someone with chronic kidney disease stage 5 in the United Kingdom to investigate how conservative kidney management interacted with implicit ideas of ageing, in both the experience of conservative kidney management and the understanding of the prognosis and future care of the kidney disease. Our findings highlighted participant confusion about the nature of conservative kidney management, which stems from an initial lack of clarity about how conservative kidney management differed from conventional treatments for chronic kidney disease stage 5. In particular, some respondents were not aware of the implicit palliative nature of the intervention or indeed the inevitable end-of-life issues. Although these findings can be situated within the context of communication failure, we would further argue that they also bring to the surface tensions in the discourses surrounding ageing and old age, drawing on the use of a 'natural' and a 'normal' paradigm of ageing. In the context of chronic kidney disease stage 5, more patients are being dialysed at older ages, but conservative kidney management is being advanced as a better option than dialysis in terms of quality of life and experience. However, in doing so, conservative kidney management implicitly draws on a notion of older age that echoes natural ageing rather than advocate a more interventionist approach. The role of discourses of ageing in the provision of treatments for conservative kidney management has not previously been acknowledged, and this article addresses this gap.
Keywords: chronic kidney disease; conservative kidney management; informal care; normal ageing; qualitative.
© The Author(s) 2014.