How long can one survive on a feeding tube through the stomach?

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My mom is 87 years old, unable to walk, has dementia and recently had a stroke. She didn't respond to commands by the hospital therapist, would not open her eyes, could not talk or move. A feeding tube was inserted in her stomach because of her condition. How long can one survive on a feeding tube?

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When my mother was told last year she needed valve replacement surgery for aortic stenosis which had reached the severe stage the cardiologist asked her how long she wanted to live. She replied she still did and wanted more time to see her great grandchildren grow. She was a risk for this surgery due to all sorts of other health issues. She had it and recovered and has improved to a degree. But she still has many health issues which are manageable for now. Some of these stories don't indicate much quality of life and staying alive despite great suffering can be senseless. Some people linger on way past a word from above making the decision. If your family member can articulate the desire to continue to live then of course that is important. But if life just becomes one terrible ailment after another then what is the point of endless suffering. I know I dont want that for my end and will certainly make that point clear to my children. To a degree I have started to.
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Reply to Riverdale
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I mentioned last year that my sister was on a feeding tube for over ten years because of complications caused by ALS.
She passed away this week but not related to the feeding tube but rather her heart and everything else just started shutting down at the end of last week.
I am told she did not really suffer the last few days but her signs just grew weaker until everything just quit.
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MarieAnne, I am working in the healthcare industry for over 25 years and agree with a lot of what you have said. The healthcare professionals are quick to send people to hospice. It is not a one size fits all. The second part of the problem is that as soon as they hear that the patient has a DRN/DNI order, people stop trying to save the patient. Do you all have any idea how many people in healthcare wrote my mom off to die, including my siblings who are nurses? I paid for my mom's funeral a few days after she suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. The next morning mom woke up. Three weeks later I insisted on a feeding tube because mom's comorbities are only hypertension, Graves diease (thyroid disorder), severe osteoporosis, severe malnutrition due to poor eating habits and stubbornness. Since receiving the peg tube in September 2017, mom has gained weight. Mom was sent initially to many skilled nursing rehabs which she and I were against. On August 8, 2017 she was doing better but fell out of the bed, was not properly assessed, and it just went downhill from there. Three weeks later she suffered the ruptured brain aneurysm. I suspect it is a result of weakening blood vessels due to short fall. The idiotic physicians missed the impending hemorrhagic stroke. After the stroke everyone ramped up the chant of impending death. When my mom woke up and told me not to cry because she planned to be around for a long time, I was truly convinced that she can live a few more years. Subsequent skilled rehab centers turned out to be BS. Drugged up, no physical therapy, not turning the patient every 2 hours or less has resulted in multiple stage 4 pressure ulcers. I got mad on December 19, 2017, had my sister reverse the DNR/DNI, switched my proxy role from secondary to primary, took my mom to the best hospital in NYS, got her properly treated. She was sent back to the skilled rehab center. Within 5 days, and not finding the incompetent doctor, she nearly died of pneumonia. She was hospitalized. I battled my entire family, forced the issue of sending her to her own home with home care services. Recovery will be slow. She will never return to her normal state. Yet overall she is doing better than she did at all these nursing facilities, and having two RNs and a dietician weighing in on her prognosis. I started in clinical laboratories for the first 8 years of my professional life. Since then I have expanded in many areas of healthcare. Having extensive experience in health insurance and hospital administration, combined with my faith in God, I say that you will know when the time is right to sign a DNR or decide against a feeding tube. The healthcare professionals are not necessarily the best source for guidance. You have to keep in mind the politics and laziness of the healthcare industry. I had asked my mom if she wanted the feeding tube and she wanted to think about it. I told her that I can't watch her starve to death and that God didn't call her number. She has the tube and although the quality of life is not yet where I would like it to be. I know that she can get there but the cleanup of the complications due to healthcare incompetence is a long, painful job. I just need the blood so-called healthcare experts (yet lazy incompetent idiots) to do what they are supposed to do. So to all of you out there wondering what you should do, I say follow your instincts if you know that you have good judgment, and question what you are told by all of the so called experts, including family members. When the Maker calls us, we all have to go. When the Lord calls my mom, she too has to go. Until that time, it is not the job of the healthcare system to decide who should die and hasten their trip to the promised land. My other piece of advise to folks out there is that unless you have time to spend at nursing homes providing care for your loved ones, don't send them there. My mom is a living proof of what I predicted would happen yet my siblings and their "expert healthcare knowledge" did not listen to me. Today my mom is paying the price for everyone else's expert knowledge and blatant disregard for her desire not to go to skilled nursing rehab in the first place. With respect to health insurance, the strategic goal of those companies is to keep medical claims expense low. To that end they deny coverage. If the patient is a Medicare beneficiary, one would be surprised to know what the insurance company has to pay for if deemed medically necessary. Every month I am on their backs for my mom's care at home. I say to folks out there, research coverage properly and don't always believe what the hospital and health insurance folks tell you.
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Liliana Sep 19, 2018
Hello;
I want to start by saying that you are an amazing, and intelligent person! Your response to MarieAnne was inspiring! My mother was recommended, and accepted to the hospice program after her last visit to the hospital! Her main medical problems are recurring UTIs. She has mid stages of dementia, but certainly not terminally ill! She recently developed dysphasia due to her dementia. Therefore, she can’t swallow solid foods. She has lost a lot of weight and is malnourished! I decided to put a PEG feeding tube! I cannot bare to see her starve to death! Much to my surprise, the hospice administrators and Doctors said that if I do that, that I must take my mother out of the program! Without hesitation, I said I’m going to do it anyway! She’s 94 but before the dysphagia, she was a strong puppy! The hospice people were brainwashing me and told me my mom had only six months to live. Well certainly if I don’t feed her, she’ll die in 2 months. The way I see a feeding tube for my mother is an umbilical cord just like the one she fed me with while in her womb. And as you say, when the creator calls, that’s when we go. Nobody knows when that will be! For now I am going to take advantages of all medical, and scientific advances to prolong my mom’s life without making her suffer in any way! Thank you for your eloquent answer! It gave me courage and confident in my difficult decision! May God bless you!!
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@MarieAnne Hospice isn't just about pushing morphine and basically letting people starve to death. It's there to make people as comfortably as possible, so they can die in a peaceful and dignified manner whether that means feeding them naturally or artificially through a PEG or IV.
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Doctors are not God even if some truly think they are. My experience has been alike and quite different than most of you in many ways. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer over 10 years ago. Having a very light tremor in one arm she was referred to "supposedly" the best Parkinson specialist in our town. This man decided in less than 10 minutes that Mom had Parkinson and put her on something called Carbidopa/Levodopa, only because she was shivering in his cold office. To make a long story short, he kept increasing the dosage at each visit since I complained about the lack of progress and she had started to have these seizures which would start about 20 minutes after taking the medicine and would last at first 15 minutes and then progressed to 40 minutes of contortions and painful twisting of her limbs. By then he has increased her dose 3 times. I then decided that enough was enough and took her to another neurologist whom after seeing a video of Mom while in seizure mode immediately asked if she was on Carbidopa/Levodopa. When I answered in the positive she asked that I immediately stop it because it was obvious to her that mother did not have Parkinson but had Lewy Body Dementia, a form of Alzheimer for which Carbidopa is an absolute NO NO. Since the very second the medicine was stopped, Mom has not had a single seizure. However subsequent MRI confirmed that her brain had been basically fried by the Carbidopa which she had taken for over a year. She had become like a child, afraid of everyone and everything, becoming a danger to herself, so we decided to try a nursing home. The doctor in charge of that nursing home from which I removed Mom after only 3 months refused to allow a feeding tube for my mother when she could not swallow or eat for over 6 days. In his opinion to me via phone "Lewy body dementia patients didn't live very long, she was at the end of her life anyway and I should just let her go". This is from a man whom I have never seen face to face despite my practically living in that nursing home, so I am positive he only saw Mom once shortly after she arrived there. When she basically slipped into a coma, I had to forcefully call 911 and she was taken to ER. It took 24 hours of IV for them to finally be able to extract a sample of urine from her. She was totally dehydrated and had a vaginal EColi infection from improper cleaning. After 5 days the ER physicians advised me that if I wanted to see her alive for a while longer that I should get her out of that place which I did and Mom has been home now for nearly 4 years. We only had 2 hospital visits since because she had inhaled a little fluid and had problem breathing. She has been on a feeding tube for nearly 2 years now. We have stopped 14 different pills she had been taking before. They were all to correct problems caused by the Carbidopa. She no longer has high blood pressure, no dehydration, no cholesterol problem, no diabetes, no seizures, etc... She takes Acetaminophen for her arthritis and 1 suppository every other day because she no longer feels the need to go to the bathroom. She is bedridden but we try to get her in a wheelchair once in a while even though its difficult due to her extreme contractures. She mumbles a lot, recognizes me some days, even answers when she is awake and aware, sometimes she is in a daze or keeps her eyes closed for hours, but she is with us, like having a full grown child you might say. My questions were the following: If I had been born quadriplegic, or mentally challenged, would my mother have stopped feeding me or giving me anything to drink with the excuse that I had no real quality of life and would she have kept me on morphine so I don't feel the pain of starvation? (This is what hospice is really all about). My second question is: Is "letting someone go" consist of no resuscitation if the heart stops or HELPING the heart stop by withholding food and water? The answer to my first question is a resounding NO and to my second question: God had plenty of opportunities to take her if He had wanted to, no medicine and no doctor can save you if your time on this earth is up, that is mine and my mother's belief. Anyone in perfect health would surely die if food and water are withheld for a time, so don't kid yourself in thinking that you are letting/helping your loved one go, no, you are simply killing them. This of course does not apply to someone who is in a constant and/or deep coma or terminal cancer patients undergoing unbelievable pain. These are the people I feel hospice can truly help.
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I agree. My parents do not want any tubes. So if that time comes, we will let nature take it's course.
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Just wonder why at her age in her condition a feeding tube was even considered. My daughter told me not to OK it. Once its inserted it cannot be removed in our state.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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I was told by the hospice doctor that, as the body starts shutting down, the body can't accept food.

In my dad's case he had a stroke, then a feeding tube because he couldn't swallow. It worked until he had 2 more strokes and was actively dying.

The liquid food wouldn't absorb. They could no longer feed him. The decision was made to let him "go". I could see for myself that he wasn't able to process the liquid. He passed within 2 days.

The hospice doctor explained that the death process is not like the living. The organs are shutting down and the patient is in another realm, that there is no hunger or thirst.

It was such a hard time but, because his stomach wouldn't process the food, the decision was already made for me.
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I have heard that at the end of life you are no longer hungry
Or thirsty. Do you think prolonging his life in his current condition would be what he wants? I wouldn’t want that but everyone is different. Make sure your decisions are in his best interest and not
determined out of your grief. I’m so sorry you are going through
this.
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My father is 67 & had a bone marrow transplant for an aggressive non Hodgkins lymphoma.
Things didn't go as we hoped for. He has been in a hospital for 6 weeks now & last 3 weeks asleep. Wakes up very rarely. He cant talk or eat on his own. They put a feeding tube few weeks ago. His MRI result keeps getting worse & the doctor says he ither has a fludarabin neurotoxicity or his lymphoma spread to his brain. She says brain biopsy would tell for sure but she doesn't want to cause him any more discomfort.
She recommends we take his feeding tube out.
I am heartbroken & don't know what to do...
I just cant find peace in knowing that he will starve & dehydrate to death but she says patients like him won't feel it.
I don't know what to do.... help...
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