(800) 973-1540

How long can a person live without a feeding tube?

10 answers | Last updated: Jun 23, 2015
An anonymous caregiver asked...

My mom was admitted to the hospital four weeks ago with pneumonia. She was already under Hospice care prior to this for declining health. She is 82 yo with history of Congestive Heart Failure, pulmonary fibrosis, and possibly a "mini stroke". She did not respond well to her treatment for pneumonia and there has been steady decline - with no hope of recovery. She has a DNR in place. She stopped eating and taking her medications nine days ago. We declined feeding tube and stopped IVs. Her doctor, on day five, after she stopped eating, couldn't believe she was still with us. Two other doctors since then have said it's soon. By the way, my mom is very spiritual and said before she became unresponsive that she is ready to die. We started a continuous morphine drip on day 8 for comfort measures. It is so hard to watch her struggle with each breath day after day and had no idea she could last this long. Just how long can we expect this to go on? She has been totally unresponsive to all stimulus for the last 24 hours - I'm assuming she is in a coma now.


47% helpful
hospice expert answered...

Usually 14 days from the day the person stops eating or drinking. I have seen them live a litte past this if the person is overweight. Also, in hospice care, See also:
What's the best gift for dying parent?
we believe hearing is the last to go. So, please talk to your mother and tell her that you love her, that it is ok for her to go, and that you will be alright. Sometimes, the person is holding on for a family member to come by or call. I have questioned in my career many times, "How long will this go on?" I have seen on numerous occasions, that if the family members or close friends talk to them (via in person or telephone), it somehow releases them to pass on in peace. Otherwise, the person may linger until that occurs.

I hope this helps. I am available for any questions you may have.


More Answers
45% helpful
Friendma answered...

my own dear husband passed away just last Friday, Nov. 5th. He had a diminished appetite for several weeks prior to his death but did eat a light meal on Sunday, the 31st. I gave him a bit of ice cream on Tuesday and he seemed eager for it but had trouble swallowing. After that he had nothing else. From Tuesday morning until Friday at 1:37 PM, he lingered. I talked to him, told him it was ok for him to go be with his parents and to wait for me to catch up someday. I even put earphones on him and played our favorite song. Shortly thereafter, he breathed his last breath, with me holding his hand and telling him repeatedly that I loved him. I like to believe that he did hear me most of the time and went with love.


47% helpful
Jade1961 answered...

I wish I had a definitive answer for you. However, each person is unique and holds on for different reasons. Just about all who have offered their input have told you the same things I would say. Let your Mom know you love her, let her know you will be okay and will see her again someday in the future and that you look forward to that. Let her know that it is alright to go be with God. As a person of Very Deep Faith, I too do not fear death. I am a cancer survivor with multiple disabilities. We live each day to the fullest. I enjoy my son & his fiancee as much as I can as well as my husband. I don't have a lot of "Holiday" spirit, but I do have a LOT of time to celebrate the Birth of my Lord and Savior. She will be fine and so will you. I know that it may sound trite to say that but it is a fact. Yes, you will go through your own personal grieving process. Your Mom has already passed that phase of her passing. From the perspective of someone who is dying a slow and very painful death, myself, I look forward to the day that I fall asleep in the Lord. I will shed tears as I will be leaving behind those I love the most and in all probability will not see my first grandchild or be physically at my Son's wedding. But, I will always be here for them in one way or another. Yesterday they found out they are having a girl and they want to give her my name as a middle name. I have asked them not to as she is due too close to the time that they will lose me. But, they are insistent so I guess they will have to grieve in whatever way is best for them. If giving their daughter my name as her middle name helps them through all of this I will be grateful. I apologize for rambling, I guess part of the process. God be with you, he is with your Mother and will walk her home when it is her time. God Bless, Jade


43% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

I would like to say to this person. Please let them name the girl after you. My mom died on the same day my little Sarah was born. They missed each other by only 12 hours. Sarah is the little angel the Lord sent to me to ease the pain of losing my mom. I look at her today and remember my beautiful mom. I thank the Lord each day for sending me Sarah on that day. Let them name this child after you so, on her birthday they will remember their mom. It truely is a blessing from God each birthday.


20% helpful
kzar answered...

Hospice expert... you confirmed that some people wait for a love one or for a particular person to come and say words before they go... i heard it many times from the old folks but i was kinda treating it as a superstitious belief.


9% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

My husband sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2007. I had to finally remove him from life support & move to comfort care only at the end of March. He lived for 3 weeks with no fluids or food, and he was a very tall thin man.


50% helpful
Alba13 answered...

I removed my husbands feeding tube. We also withdrew fluids from his I.V. It took seven days. He was twenty five and was in a vegetative state for three months prior. He had already lost a significant amount of weight.


20% helpful
BettyBoop68 answered...

To Jade1961: My father died when I was 5 months pregnant with my last son. It was a fast, unexpected and traumatic experience for us, the family, and when my son was born 4 months later I added my dad's name to his middle name. It has lifted me up so many times, and, more importantly, it has given my youngest a sense of some connection. His older two brothers met his "Pa" and loved him, and he has always felt so sad he didn't get too. He is 15 now and continues to tell me how having his name connects him. Let them grieve and may you go be with God in his time, and in peace. Namaste.


Kmk2002 answered...

My husband has been in a persistant vegatative state for 13 years he was 38 at the time. He lost 45-60 min of blood and oxygen to his brain . I'm taking out his feeding tube it has been 4 days now. I am emotionally and physically drained. When will he pass!? He has started mottling ..