How Long Do You Live After Stopping Dialysis?

My dad survived 19 days after discontinuing dialysis.  He had no pain or physical discomfort during that time.

Every One’s Situation is Different

When my dad decided to stop receiving dialysis, I searched the internet to find out how long our family should expect him to live.  I had heard that it may take several days to months depending on each person’s medical situation.  So, if you’re looking for that same answer, keep this in mind.  How long someone who stops receiving dialysis treatments lives depends on the amount of kidney function  he or she still has left.  The kidneys are important for filtering waste from the bloodstream, and maintaining a  normal blood chemistry,  When they fail to do so, it is called kidney failure.  Non-kidney related health problems can be contributing factors as well.

Relatively Easy Way to Die

One thing my dad feared as he got older was being kept alive on life support.  He didn’t want to become ventilator-dependent.  His independence was very important to him.   When he developed acute kidney failure, he tried dialysis for six months.  He hated it!  He dreaded going to the dialysis center for treatments.  Despite these treatments, his condition worsened.  He lost over 60 pounds after 6 months of dialysis, primarily during the last 6 weeks.  Once he was unable to drive and no longer had the energy to leave his home, he decided that this was not the quality of life he wanted.

Based on this, my dad made the decision to live at least until his 84th birthday.  Therefore, he decided to discontinue dialysis shortly before his 84th birthday.  He survived until nine days after, and didn’t suffer at all. 

Dying at Home

Dad preferred to be in the comfort of his own home when he died, so my sisters and I took care of him 24/7.  During his final week of life, he didn’t have the energy to help us move him.  To provide us some additional help, we asked his doctor order home hospice care.  Hospice services were wonderful for my dad and our family.  The purpose of hospice care is to keep the dying person comfortable and pain free.  They customize a care plan for the individual’s needs, including nursing, home health aide, and spiritual services.  For dad, he needed help with bathing every day, and an occasional dose of Ativan (anti-anxiety medication) for agitation.  The idea of dying didn’t cause it (he was ready), but he sometimes became agitated by so many visitors in the home.

Fortunately, my dad did not have any pain during his final days.  He did experience some nausea, but that seemed to be associated with his longterm struggles with acid reflux.  I don’t know if it was good or bad thing, but my dad’s mind was as “sharp as a tack” until the very end of his life.

The last five days were peaceful for him.  He slept more and more hours each day, then ultimately went into a coma-like state the day before he died.  That said, I am certain he could still hear us talking to him.  Periodically, he would squeeze our hands, and seem to almost wake up.  Eventually, his organs shut down, and he passed quickly with his girls by his side.

While it was difficult for all of us to experience, we were happy that he was able to choose his final path, and had no suffering at the end of his life.