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Old 02-13-2020, 02:27 PM
Nars Glinley is offline
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How long can a person live if they hardly move at all?

I know that there is no factual answer to this. I'm looking for generalities.

My 77 year old father-in-law has prostate cancer. It has spread to his bones. He also has kidney failure and is on nightly at-home dialysis. As a result, he is extremely weak and spends about 99% of his waking hours sitting in a recliner watching TV. He needs help standing and getting to the bathroom.

If we ignore his cancer and kidney issues, how long can a person live if they don't move around anymore than he does? Can someone actually live for years like that or does everything atrophy sooner than that?

I'm not looking for advice on how to get him well. He's extremely stubborn. He had home health for a while but it wasn't renewed because he wasn't making any progress.
I've decided to spend more time criticizing things I don't understand. - Dogbert
Old 02-13-2020, 02:38 PM
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People in comas live a long time. Paralyzed or ALS patients can live a long time, it seems.
Old 02-13-2020, 02:39 PM
Horatius is offline
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Well, people in comas have lived for years, so that's a start.
Where am I going, and why am I in this handbasket?
Old 02-13-2020, 02:39 PM
Kimera757 is offline
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...stayed in a coma for 37 years and 111 days before succumbing in 1978 — the longest-ever coma, according to Guinness World Records.

I read about a few morbidly obese people who were effectively incapable of movement. If they're not taken to a hospital and someone keeps feeding them, they can live a long time if they survive the expected health risks.

Many of his systems might atrophy, but to be alive, you only need a few working systems, such as the brain, heart, lungs, urinary and digestive tract, all of which would still be functioning. Presumably his hands would still function as I assume he can feed himself. I assume his senses would function unless something specifically happened to stop them. And, of course, his hair and nails would keep growing. Immobility is a killer, but a slow killer, and can take over 37 years (as seen in that example).

His biggest problem would be getting to the bathroom and using it by himself.

Also, that link scares me enough I might just go and get a living will.
Old 02-13-2020, 02:57 PM
Machine Elf is offline
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Quadraplegiacs tend to live about 10 years post-injury. This is of course an average (I know one who is still alive 20 years after their injury). Quadraplegiacs may not be a good reference point, since their spinal cord injuries can affect how their bodies work (e.g. temperature regulation), which may compromise health.

The average life expectancy after ALS diagnosis is more like three years. Stephen Hawking, who lived with ALS for decades, is rather an outlier. Cause of breath appears to be when the patient stops breathing, followed by no intervention; I think such intervention is the big reason why Hawking lived so long. It may be that if you start out from being basically healthy and receive good care (e.g. prevention of pressure sores), you can, like Hawking, last for decades despite complete immobility.

A 77YO man, even ignoring his cancer and kidney issues, is not in the sort of good health that a young Stephen Hawking was when he was first diagnosed. IANAD, but given the cancer/kidney problems and the extant weakness you describe, I would be surprised if he were around more than six months from now.

Old 02-13-2020, 03:02 PM
carrps is offline
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I thought it came out that Hawking didn't have ALS, but a related, slightly less incapacitating, disease. I worked with a guy who had ALS. Terribly, terribly sad. He died about 6 or 7 years after diagnosis.
Old 02-13-2020, 03:12 PM
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Jason Becker is currently the longest-surviving ALS sufferer, IIRC. He was diagnosed in 1990 and lost the ability to move or speak in 1996. He is still alive, still aware and still a righteous dude.

Here's a video from 2015 . I like this one because I'm very happy for both Mr. Becker and Miss Strauss; they are both awesome folks.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 02-13-2020 at 03:12 PM.
Old 02-13-2020, 03:21 PM
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Don't coma patients and paralyzed patients at least have a schedule on which their bodies are therapeutically moved for them? Is whatever movement the FIL might do in a day enough to mimic that sort of therapeutic movement?
Old 02-13-2020, 04:15 PM
Nars Glinley is offline
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Originally Posted by Kimera757 View Post
Also, that link scares me enough I might just go and get a living will.
Apropos of nothing, a few years ago, I started a thread of "Your "One sentence scary story" submissions." One of my entries was:
Today marked the tenth anniversary of the first day that he'd regretted not signing the living will.
I now have a living will.
I've decided to spend more time criticizing things I don't understand. - Dogbert


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