Background: Dietary modification is an integral part of chronic kidney disease (CKD) management. However, adherence to the renal diet is often suboptimal.
Methods: The aims of this study were to (i) describe the experiences of patients with CKD and their carers in their process of interpreting and implementing renal dietary advice; (ii) to explore strategies they used to make sense of and apply renal diet information and (iii) to develop recommendations for improved clinical practice. To achieve these aims, individual semi-structured interviews with 26 patients and 10 carers were conducted, using interview questions guided by Sensemaking theory.
Findings: Six themes emerged from the data which did not differ according to CKD stage, geographic location or renal replacement therapy (RRT) type. The renal diet was perceived by patients and carers to be overwhelming, frustrating and emotionally demanding; as well as being complex and challenging. To help make sense of and apply renal dietary advice, participants highly valued the input of the dietitian; and patients believed that their carer support was important. Individual problem-solving strategies were developed by participants to help them make sense of the renal diet, and many of them expressed a desire for additional resources and/or support.
Conclusions: This study highlights that learning to make sense of renal diet information is an emotionally challenging journey for patients and carers. In addition to utilising the expertise of dietitians, carer support was perceived to be integral to learning and using renal dietary advice. The study describes a number of important problem-solving strategies utilised by patients and carers, as well as recommendations to help improve sensemaking and adherence to the renal diet.