Rehabilitation of the Geriatric Dialysis Patient


Address correspondence to: Sarbjit Vanita Jassal, M.D., University of Toronto, UHN/TRI 8NU-857, 200 Elizabeth St., Toronto, Canada M5G 2C4, or e-mail:


Dialysis is offered to patients with end-stage renal disease as a life-sustaining therapy. However, studies have shown that elderly patients experience high rates of functional disability, hospitalization, institutionalization, and mortality on chronic dialysis therapy, and that the initiation of dialysis is in fact associated with an acceleration in functional decline. These findings have sparked debate about the utility of dialysis for elderly renal patients. In this article, it is proposed that geriatric rehabilitation can prevent, reverse or delay the onset of functional disability and associated adverse outcomes in older dialysis patients, and thus should be incorporated routinely into standard geriatric dialysis care. We outline the causes of disability in elderly dialysis patients, and demonstrate the potential impact of rehabilitation using a case scenario. Models of rehabilitation that have been shown to be effective in improving outcomes for elderly renal and nonrenal populations, including inpatient rehabilitation, exercise training, falls prevention, and home-based models, are reviewed.