By Barbara Karnes, RN Editor’s Note: The following is a question sent to Barbara Karnes, RN, whom I follow as one of my favorite Nurse Educators. Perhaps, as a caregiver, you can relate to what the wife is asking about concerning her spouse OR you may know someone who is in a similar situation and can benefit from reading this article. If so, please forward it to that “someone” to assist him or her during this time of need. Thank you!
Question: Dear Barbara, our doctor says my husband will most likely die before six months. He has diabetes, dementia, is on dialysis which doesn’t help him, has not since he started last February. Doctor says he also has disease of the arteries and heart disease. He has been in and out of the hospital many times. He is now home and sleeps almost all day. He still has a good appetite. So my question is will he die within the six months our doctor gives him?
In response to your question:No one can be so specific as to put a number on how long someone has to live. There are many dynamics that influence when death from disease occurs that have nothing to do with the disease or the body processes. Factors affecting the time of death other than medical factors are: we have unconscious and limited control over the time that we die. Our personality tends to affect when we die. How we have approached living is often reflected in our dying. We die the way we’ve lived. A-type personalities tend to die quicker than more relaxed, sedate personalities.
So many factors affect the length of our labor to leave this world that it is imprudent to put a specific time frame on approaching death. The closest we can credibly come to predicting when death is going to arrive is to guesstimate the time in months or weeks with no numbers attached. When you are dealing with days or hours, even without putting a number on them, we cannot generally be accurate in predicting when death will happen.
Based on what you have told me of your husband diseases and his body’s response to them and the treatments he is receiving I will be surprised if he is here next year at this time. A lot depends on the treatments, dialysis and medications, that he is receiving. If the dialysis is not working you can stop it. You can decrease the medications he is on. Talk with your husband’s doctors about comfort care instead of aggressive care. There comes a point where we can in good conscious say “enough is enough”, “keep him comfortable” and call in hospice for the support it will give you.
I don’t mean to sound harsh but yes, your husband is dying and it sounds like we are looking at months. How many no one can say. Maybe it is time to stop trying to “fix” him and have your goal be to keep him comfortable as his body releases itself from this earth.
Understanding the signs of approaching death and what to expect when death draws closer is explained clearly and simply in GONE FROM MY SIGHT. Signs of the dying process from months to weeks to days to hours to minutes is covered in an easy to comprehend way. Caring for someone who is dying is different than caring for someone who will get better. GONE FROM MY SIGHT is a most helpful tool for families and friends of the dying.