How Long Do You Live After Stopping Dialysis?

My dad lived 19 days after stopping dialysis. He was not in any pain or physical discomfort during that time.

Every One’s Situation is Different

When my dad decided to stop dialysis, I searched the internet to find out how long we could expect him to live. I had heard it could take several days to several months “depending.” So if you’re looking for that same answer, keep in mind that everybody is going to be different. How long they live depends on how much kidney function (which is required to maintain safe blood chemistry) they still have left and any other health problems that they may have.  

Relatively Easy Way to Die

One thing my dad was scared of as he got older was being kept alive. He didn’t want to linger or be ventilator-dependent. His independence was very important to him. He had acute kidney failure and had been on dialysis only 6 months. He hated dialysis. He hated going for treatments at the clinic. Not to mention, despite his efforts, even with dialysis, his condition just kept getting worse. He went from 183 pounds to less than 120 pounds in 6 months (much of that in the last 6 weeks). Once he could no longer drive and didn’t have the energy to leave the house, he decided that his quality of life wasn’t what he wanted.

He decided that he wanted to at least live until his 84th birthday so he stopped dialysis shortly before his 84th birthday. He ended up living 9 days past his birthday. He didn’t suffer at all. 

Dying at Home

Dad wanted to die at home, so my sisters and I took care of him 24/7. With about a week left, he didn’t have the energy to help us move him. So we had his doctor order home hospice care. Hospice was wonderful. The purpose of hospice is to keep the dying person comfortable and pain free. For dad, that meant a bath every day and an occasional Ativan (anti-anxiety medication) for agitation. It wasn’t that he was agitated about the idea of dying, he was ready, but some days there were so many visitors that he got agitated.

He did not have any pain in his final days. He did have some nausea, but that seemed to be more related to his acid reflux that he had had for years. I don’t know if it was good or bad thing, but my dad’s mind was as sharp as a tack up until the end. 

The last 5 days were very easy for him. He slept more and more each day and then he finally went into a coma-like state about a day before he died. That being said, I am sure he could still hear us talking to him – he would squeeze our hand and seem to almost wake up. His organs ultimately shut down and he passed quickly with his girls by his side.

While it was hard experience for us girls to experience, we were happy that he was able to choose his final path and that he ultimately didn’t suffer.