14 Ways to Win the Waiting Game

By Vernon Silva LCSW, NSW-C and Swagata Pandit LMSW

Improving and enhancing human lives is the main mission of social workers, and waiting is a reality of life. But the reality is, waiting is a bigger part of life for dialysis patients. We work with dialysis patients. It is our mission to help them not only cope but thrive. We truly succeed when we help our clients improve their lives and make good decisions at every turn. Instead of looking at a person or a situation to point out what may be wrong with it, we focus on what works well and try to expand it further into other areas of living and functioning. Strengthening your “waiting” skills is so much better than allowing yourself to become frustrated with life’s challenges, including the wait.

If you don’t have symptoms yet, you can “wait” to start your dialysis. Those of us who do not require dialysis may complain of any wait time we experience. However, in the world of dialysis and kidney failure, waiting is a large constant, and can become frustrating.

To name just a few “waits” dialysis patients endure:

– waiting for their ride to the clinic

– waiting during the long ride as other patients are picked up along the way

– waiting in the lobby before being called in

– waiting inside the treatment unit to be connected to the dialysis machine

– waiting to be disconnected after 3-4 hours of treatment

– waiting for the ride back home

Then all this repeats in two days! In addition, there is waiting for appointments for dialysis access and for transplant evaluation.  After getting on the kidney transplant list, there is the ultimate waiting for a kidney. These can be a really long waits, many times without any positive outcome.

Given the reality of so much waiting, what can patients do to keep themselves engaged? Here are many ways we’ve recommended to overcome the frustration that long waits can create, and to use time effectively for personal benefit:

1. Use free wi-fi These days most medical facilities and clinics, including dialysis clinics, have free wi-fi so patients can catch up with online activities.

2. Take online classes Use the time to learn something new. Many online learning sources are free and have no time limitations.

3. Listen to podcasts These are interesting conversations and learning opportunities and present a great way to pass time.

4. Listen to soothing music Music is proven to have a healing effect, and calming music can help you relax.

5. Read Read an actual book, or read using an e-reader such as Kindle, etc.

6. Do crossword puzzles Crossword puzzles truly are brain teasers. Pass the time in this fun  way while waiting or while in the dialysis chair.

7. Research Inform yourself during this wait time on as many ESRD issues as possible. Read about your rights and responsibilities, grievance/complaint procedures, tips on foods high/low in phosphorus, care for your access (fistula, catheter, graft), etc.

8. Network with other patients Humans are social beings – even those of us who are a bit introverted. We cope best and can come up with creative ideas when we communicate positively with others.

9. Mentor someone who is new to dialysis New patients can be very anxious about what to expect from dialysis. Patients used to the routine can help new patients, and relieve their stress to some extent.

10. Color Adult coloring books are a new trend. This is an easy way to keep occupied while waiting in any medical facility and even while on dialysis.

11. Relax Deep breathing is one of the most effective relaxation techniques. Inhale and count 4 breaths, then exhale and count 8 breaths.  As you get comfortable with it, do it longer. Visualize what you are waiting for, such as your dialysis treatment. Take yourself through each step to ensure that the execution is as good as possible – like an Olympic diver visualizing each component of her next dive – so that your mind guides your body effectively through the process.

12. Imagine Concentrate on pleasant mental images to replace negative thoughts, and work to overcome sadness or depression with happy thoughts. Be thankful and grateful for all that you have – even for dialysis and for transplantation which actually save lives, allowing us the ability to be here with our loved ones.

13. Write Write birthday cards, thank you notes, or family recipes to share. Keep cards and notes handy, and send your personal messages in the mail, so rare these days and very
much appreciated!

14. Meditate and pray Formulate a mantra. Mantras are brief statements or words that we repeat over and over, either internally to ourselves in our minds or in a whisper or out loud together with others. Some examples: “I’m fine and I can do this.”  “I’m alright.”  “I’m OK.”  “I feel calm and relaxed.”  “This is do-able.” Prayer works the same way. Your thoughts are very powerful, and so is the power of suggestion. When you give yourself direction over and over, your mind absorbs the message and reacts positively. Repetitive prayers and/or meditations are known to help people feel better.

Vernon Silva LCSW, NSW-C is a licensed clinical social worker based out of Los Angeles, CA, who has worked in kidney disease for 18 years, and is the brother of a kidney patient who is now Vernon’s guardian angel.



Swagata Pandit LMSW is a renal social worker based out of Tonawanda, NY.


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