How long can MIL live in her current state disregarding doctor's orders?

3 answers | Last updated: Jun 27, 2014
Afragie asked...

My mother in law has diabetes, congestive heart failure, is a double amputee (half her leg on one side, half her foot on the other), she has had a heart attack, a stroke, and she is only 60. She refuses to take care of herself, she uses a heaping spoonful of sugar in her tea, she thinks sea salt is a low sodium alternative for regular salt. We as her kids have explained to her that if she takes better care of herself she can live longer. (We have even put sweets on the top shelf so she can't reach them, but soon as my father-in-law gets home her gives her what ever she wants, telling us he rather see her happy with the time she has.) My husband, myself, his brother, and fiancee are the main care givers for her. What kind of life expectancy can we expect if she continues to travel down this path, and what are the signs and symptoms of her getting worse. Her husband takes her to the doctor and he doesn't go in with her, and she won't let us go with her. So I am sure she is telling the doctor that she is following all his rules. She also in the past year has developed kidney problems and has had sepsis, a few times, and came very close to going on dialysis. Any information will be helpful we are basically in the blind besides when she is in the hospital. That's the only time we get answers, because we go behind her back and talk to the doctors. So thanks for your help in advance.

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Due to her chronic conditions, and the fact that her diabetes is not well controlled, her life expectancy is not long at this point.  It sounds as though it will only be a matter of time before her kidneys fail, and then she will need dialysis, which is not easy.  Since I cannot see her and do not really know how strong she is, my best guess would be about 5 years more to live.  If she started to take care of herself, she may live longer.

Reading your question, you are obviously frustrated by her lack of compliance with medical advice.  However, it is her body and her choice at this point.  I hope for your sake that she changes her ways.  Good luck!

Community Answers

Ca-claire answered...

So sorry to hear your difficulties. It is always difficult when you care for someone that refuses to change even one thing about their life. Take heart, with the difficulties she is having, her doctor knows that she is not following orders.

I had to deal with this with my husband after his stroke. At some point, you have to step back and let the person handle their own affairs, no matter how poorly they are treating themselves.

The most difficult part is most people in your mother in law's position don't really reaize that things aren't just life and death. There's a HUGE grey area between the two that is pretty awful both for the patient and the caregivers.

Keep strong, take a step back and only manage what YOU can control - your own actions. You'd be surprised how sometimes when you stop pushing, the behavior changes.

Hope your 2010 is better for you and your fellow caregivers.

Patricia waller answered...

i was a diabetic for 6 years before being told.i have diabetic neuropothy in both feet and i planto go out with both of my lower limbs.Candy is not worth eating.I follow a strict diet i put my self on,no bread,candysugarin coffee,no fried foods,no processed foods,and i am surviving i am on insulin and due to my diet i do not have to take it but 1x a day my sugar is down to 75-86 everyday.Myaic is 5.9 Your mother is younger than me and your dad needs to stop.He will have enough guilt when she is gone from this disease,because it is a killer in more ways than 1.ot destroys the eyeskidneys,heart,causes strokes,causes skin problems,Oh i used to eat pizza.since I was diagnosed in june 09 I have only had 2 slices and i do not even eat pasta which i love if I can do this at 64 and give myself shots anyone can do it also.I do save my carbs for a dish of icecream 1x a week amd i do it with my nighttime insulin.But i have been carb free all day my dr is amazed that my aic is down,he said diabetics get into a lot of trouble because they don't follow the diet.Well as o saod i like my feet and my shoes so i will keep them.The life expemtamcy on dialysis is about 5 years and i used to drive patients to and from dialysis and i know what it is like.please tell your dad to stop.She does not need that stuf.Sorry for this but she is living to eat and she should eat to live.this is my opinion. patty