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One in three adults are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) and 30 million Americans are living with this disease.  Understanding the steps that can be taken to prevent and/or slow the progression is key to optimizing quality of life for those who are vulnerable as well as those who have been diagnosed with this chronic condition.  

There are five stages of CKD.  End Stage Renal Disease (Stage 5) requires life-extending treatment of either dialysis or a kidney transplant.  In the early stages, symptoms are not always present.  However, once a diagnosis is confirmed, it is important to follow the guidelines and recommendations of one’s medical provider to slow the progression.

When kidneys don’t function properly, this can negatively impact the health of the heart, lungs, bones, and blood.  Symptoms of CKD may include nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling in the body’s extremities caused by excess fluid, need to urinate more frequently- especially at night, difficulty sleeping, blood and/or protein in the urine, and persistent itching.  

The two most common causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. Additional risk factors include, smoking, obesity, heart disease, medication that has damaged the kidneys, family history, age, and race/ethnicity.  African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans are also more susceptible. 

If skilled nursing care is required for a patient with CKD, understanding the disease process and clinical best practices is critical to achieving the best patient outcome. 

According to Rita Holloman, director of nursing at Water’s Edge Center for Health & Rehabilitation in Middletown, “We manage many patients/residents with chronic kidney disease. Our interdisciplinary team includes nursing, therapeutic rehabilitation, social services, dieticians, and an attending physician who work to create individualized care plans designed to optimize each patient’s quality of life,” stated Holloman.

Kidney friendly tips include managing diabetes or high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, getting tested for CKD if at risk, and having a nephrologist (kidney specialist) on your care team.  Meeting with a renal (kidney) dietician is also important to understand a healthy kidney-friendly diet which includes keeping protein, potassium, phosphorus, and sodium at a safe level. 

The above is a general overview of CKD. For more detailed information and resources, please visit or

(Sources: American Kidney Fund, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic, and National Kidney Foundation)

Column is written by Laura Falt, director of business development in Connecticut. Laura welcomes the opportunity to be a resource to the community on services for older adults and is often featured in local publications.