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Family Members' Experiences With Dialysis and Kidney Transplantation.


Rationale & objective

Understanding whether family members' experiences with patients' treatment for end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) were expected could guide the development of family-centered interventions that enhance the preparedness of patients and their care partners for kidney replacement therapies. We explored unexpected negative experiences with ESKD treatments among family members of dialysis and posttransplantation patients to identify meaningful directions for family-centered research and clinical care.

Study design

Qualitative study.

Setting & participants

8 focus groups comprising 49 family members of dialysis patients and living donor kidney transplant recipients undergoing medical care in Baltimore, MD.

Analytical approach

Focus groups were stratified by patients' treatment (in-center hemodialysis, home hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, or living donor kidney transplantation) and family members' self-reported race (African American vs non-African American), resulting in 2 groups per treatment experience. Inductive thematic analysis was used to identify themes in focus group transcripts. Themes shared across different treatment groups were highlighted to provide insight into common experiences.


We identified 4 themes that described family members' unexpected negative treatment experiences: becoming a care partner (unanticipated responsibilities and sleep disruptions), adverse psychological treatment responses in patients (eg, depression) and family members (eg, anxiety), treatment delivery and logistics (insufficient information, medication regimen, and logistical inconveniences), and patient morbidity (dialysis-related health problems and fatigue). All themes were relevant to discussions in the in-center hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and transplantation groups, whereas psychological responses and morbidity themes did not reflect discussions in home hemodialysis groups.


Data collection occurred from 2008 to 2009; family members were recruited through patients undergoing care in 1 geographic area; 1 family member participant per patient.


Family members described a broad range of unexpected negative experiences with ESKD treatments. Efforts to prepare families for ESKD treatments through more family-centered care, early and tailored education, and interventions targeting care partner preparedness, health provider-family member communication, and relationship dynamics in family member-patient dyads are needed.

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