Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday, January 23, 2010 diana, Community Member, asks

Q: How long can a person with alzheimers live with an iv vs feeding tube ?

My mother is in her last stages of alzheimers.  She forgets to swallow.  her lungs are infiltrated. When she used to eat she would choke on everything they give her. While she was aware she always told me that she didn't want to be put in any kind of tubes or anything that would delay her death.  My mother is in a nursing home  they have her with iv and a part of me is having a hard time with this. I was just wondering how long can she live with just iv.  She has been  with the iv since december 30.

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Answers (3)
Dorian Martin, Health Guide
1/24/10 2:41pm

Hi, Diana,


I am so sorry that your mom is going through this and do know how difficult it is as a loving daughter to watch. We didn't have to use an IV on my mom; she ended up catching a type of pneumonia which, due to her weakened lungs due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, proved to be fatal. Therefore, I don't have any experience.


However, if I were in your shoes, I'd talk to your mom's doctor or the nursing home staff to better understand her status. Also, is Hospice involved? If so, Hospice workers could provide this information as well.


I also wrote a sharepost about our family's decision on the feeding tube when Mom started experiencing swallowing issues. It might be of help to you.


Take care and keep us posted!



CJ, Community Member
1/23/10 9:04pm

Hello.  I'd hoped someone (a specialist) would come along to address your question.  I imagine there is no one set time limit.  My father, who suffered in his last six weeks from multi-infarct dementia (now called vascular dementia), lived for about 9 days, give or take a day, with an IV.  He was dehydrating the whole time, and it was clear to me that he was dying, though his doctor denied it. 


You are facing a very hard time.  This site has some really informative share posts and questions/answers.  You can find them on this topic of your question; I did a brief search and found several comments about alzheimers and IV use and feeding tube use.  Use the search engine at the top of the page and type in search terms you consider relevant.


Best wishes to you as you work your way through this difficult period.

AFA Social Services, Health Guide
1/26/10 4:43pm

The issues and concerns regarding artificial nutrition and hydration are very complex with someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  As you know, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness and unfortunately an individual becomes more and more debilitated over time.  Your mother’s brain is not able to send the messages anymore to eat properly or swallow, which has resulted in her current condition.  Providing her with IV hydration will keep her body going, but sadly cannot repair her brain. 
Dignity and quality of life for a person in the end stages of Alzheimer’s is essential.  Everyone’s situation is different and it is helpful to speak to your mother’s physician about current treatment and care.  It is uncertain how long a person can live with artificial means because there are other factors, such as condition of the heart and other vital organs that play a role in survival.   

You mentioned that your mother stated she would not want treatment to extend her life, which is a very important message.  If your mother has these wishes in writing, such as through a health care proxy or living will, it would be important to execute these documents.  If there is no documentation but she verbally expressed these wishes to you, I encourage you to speak to her physician about options for how to fulfill your mother’s wishes.  You can advocate for her by speaking to the doctor about alternatives, such as comfort care or hospice.  Hospice is a decision that is made in order to keep an individual as comfortable as possible without taking extraordinary measures at the end of life.  The positive aspect of hospice is that an individual does not have pain or suffering as they come closer to the end of their life.  An individual is able to be kept comfortable and when the time comes they can peacefully pass away.

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By diana, Community Member— Last Modified: 12/25/10, First Published: 01/23/10