The devastation unleashed by Hurricane Katrina caused the death of nearly 2,000 people in the Gulf area, and reminders of the disaster are widespread. For survivors of the storm, the mental and emotional costs continue to exact a toll. Now the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is reaching out to a special group of Katrina survivors in Louisiana with a uniquely targeted wellness program.
To enable people on dialysis to better cope with post-tragedy trauma, the National Kidney Foundation has designed a program kit called “People Like Us – Stepping Back into Life.” The kits are being distributed to social workers in Louisiana in October.
The wellness treatment kits, presented by the foundation’s People Like Us program, include a two-part audio CD along with a facilitator’s guide and training session to assist social workers to more expertly counsel dialysis patients who have lived through Hurricane Katrina, or other natural disasters.
Mental health professionals have warned that New Orleans is experiencing what appears to be a near epidemic of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders. Among the survivors especially hard hit with depression and related stress in the wake of Katrina are people who were already struggling with medical problems, such as kidney disease.
“Imagine being on dialysis and having to cope every day with chronic kidney disease,” said Julie Gable, NKF of Louisiana Director of Program Services. “Now imagine grappling with the loss of a home or even a loved one while trying to get proper treatment in the face of destruction.
The anxiety alone is staggering.”
The “Stepping Back Into Life” CDs enable dialysis patients, while receiving treatment, to listen to audio selections focused on coping with a trauma or disaster and managing depression. Social workers may also conduct the program with patients in a classroom setting. One audio session shares personal stories of individuals with chronic kidney disease, highlights issues that have added to their depression and offers solutions that have helped them regain control of their lives.
Six months after the hurricanes, the NKF met with patients and professionals in Louisiana to provide supportive and educational programs about coping in the aftermath of a disaster. “Our patients really enjoyed the fellowship they shared listening to people with whom they had something in common,” said Toni Smith, a dietitian, who works with dialysis patients in a facility outside of New Orleans. “It’s really helpful for them to know they’re not the only ones dealing with trauma.” The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to the prevention of kidney and urinary tract disease, improving the health and well-being of patients and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.