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Old 05-29-2011, 06:39 AM   #1
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How long can he linger?

My 84 year old dad has end stage Alzheimers. He is being cared for at home. He stopped eating and hasn't had anything to drink in 8 days. Last Tuesday the nurses were unable to wake him for his morning routine of bathing etc. We assumed he'd slipped into a coma. Hospice was called in, and they said he had less than 72 hours to live. Later that afternoon, he opened his eyes, and although he can't really speak, he definitely knew we were there - he was responding with a smile and/or squeeze of the hand, but was only 'awake' for a minute or two. The hospice nurse retracted her prediction of 72 hrs at that point. Since then, he opened his eyes and responded a few times, but can't be roused over the last few days. He has a pacemaker, and his vitals are still good - he also produced urine as recently as yesterday. He is on morphine and ativan.
The entire family has flown into town, everyone has spoken to him, and told him it was ok to go, as far as we know, there is no 'unfinished business'....and yet, he's still lingering. There are more than 15 family members here waiting for him to pass, and it's been stressful and overwhelming to say the least.
I guess my question is, how long can a person last without water? He hasn't had a drop of water in 8+ days - everything I've read has said a person can't last more than 3-5 days - possibly a little longer in a pallative state. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

 
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Old 05-29-2011, 07:29 AM   #2
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Re: How long can he linger?

Elderly people in coma or near coma can last a remarkably long time without nourishment, just because their metabolisms are so low. It's said that my great-grandmother stopped eating almost entirely months before she died, although she was still drinking clear liquids.

It does not sound like he's suffering. When the time comes, he'll leave.

 
Old 06-05-2011, 04:03 PM   #3
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Re: How long can he linger?

If he`s on IV`s he should be getting water or at least liquids in his system. From experience the human body can last a while just running on it`s own. As long as he`s not in any pain thats good. It sounds like he isn`t in pain. He may just be waiting for his time. He may have some inner tumoral to fight out with himself. He still smiling and careing about all of you even with his last days. Maybe he just wants to know everyones ok before he goes. No one really knows what goes on near the end but it makes it better when they are at piece and not suffering. Good luck to you

 
Old 06-26-2011, 08:52 PM   #4
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Re: How long can he linger?

Quote:
Originally Posted by knorr View Post
My 84 year old dad has end stage Alzheimers. He is being cared for at home. He stopped eating and hasn't had anything to drink in 8 days. Last Tuesday the nurses were unable to wake him for his morning routine of bathing etc. We assumed he'd slipped into a coma. Hospice was called in, and they said he had less than 72 hours to live. Later that afternoon, he opened his eyes, and although he can't really speak, he definitely knew we were there - he was responding with a smile and/or squeeze of the hand, but was only 'awake' for a minute or two. The hospice nurse retracted her prediction of 72 hrs at that point. Since then, he opened his eyes and responded a few times, but can't be roused over the last few days. He has a pacemaker, and his vitals are still good - he also produced urine as recently as yesterday. He is on morphine and ativan.
The entire family has flown into town, everyone has spoken to him, and told him it was ok to go, as far as we know, there is no 'unfinished business'....and yet, he's still lingering. There are more than 15 family members here waiting for him to pass, and it's been stressful and overwhelming to say the least.
I guess my question is, how long can a person last without water? He hasn't had a drop of water in 8+ days - everything I've read has said a person can't last more than 3-5 days - possibly a little longer in a pallative state. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
I have been home health for twenty years and have dealt with clients in the dying process. Unfortunately some people linger quite awhile before they die. If he has strong vital signs,lungs,heart and they kidneys haven't shut down it's hard to say how long he will live. When his breathing starts getting periods of apnea(not breathing for anywhere between 10-30 seconds at a time) and the periods of apnea get longer and longer it will finally stop. some peoples breathing becomes very fast for awhile and then it starts to slow down.Its very hard to watch someone die especially when it's a beloved family member or even a close friend. Give each other breaks frequently from sitting at the patients bedside, go for a walk get something to eat,take a nap,or even watch a funny or uplifting movie. It's emotionally draining as well as physically draining. Talk with the social worker,chaplain,and nurse about your feelings,memories,and fears it helps with the anticipatory grief and mourning process.

 
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