Hi all. My close family and I have been doing all we can for my Mother over the last 18 years while we watched in horror as she succumbed to schizophrenia. She believes one person is secretly in love with her (he has a restraining order against her), that he is God and Satan, and that he controls every aspect of her life. We've seen the person we once knew and understood become someone totally different. Countless calls to police and aging services over the years were useless because she needed to "currently be a threat to herself or others", and because she was still eating and living on her own, she didn't qualify. A couple weeks ago she got in a hit and run accident . Police were going to arrest her at her home, but sensed something was off, so they committed her to a five-day psych hold at the hospital. We proceeded with a commitment hearing in front of a judge and case worker, and she is now court-committed, staying at the hospital until she is medically cleared, at which time when a bed opens up she will be moved to a mental health facility. Mom has refused to eat, refused to talk to people, and has dropped from 120 to 75 pounds or less. She looks like a skeleton, a miserable skeleton, and it's hard to watch her suffer. The hospital is keeping her alive on IV's, and she apparently eats one bite of food a day. My question is, how long can she live like this? And isn't she just suffering more and prolonging the inevitable? She has told us she wants to die, but hospitals are apparently under the obligation to keep people alive for no other reason than they legally they have to. If she continues to not eat, lose weight, and just lay still all day stewing in her own anger and delusions, how long can she live? We as a family obviously dream of a miracle cure, where the person we once knew returns, but it seems hard to believe at this point. Mom has become deeply religious, and I would like to see her suffering end so she can move on to what she wants her next life to be. Any information you have is welcome. This is hard to watch as a family, especially seeming to have so little control over the situation. She has no money and no assets to speak of, along with a massive amount of debt. I can't see any light at the end of this tunnel, other than maybe living as a vegetable in a wheelchair, which doesn't sound like much of a life to me. I miss my Mother with all my heart, but I don't want to watch her suffer. Peace to you all.

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If she is hospitalized there is not a lot you can do about the fluids, but if she is in a care facility and someone has POA and can help with a decision there is at least a possiblity of fluids being withdrawn. It is iffy to unlikely you can do this because this is to be the decision of someone choosing death and being of sound enough mind to do so. She is not of sound enough mind to do so. If she keeps on being as adamant about this as she is, they may give up and go with palliative care and hospice. If anyone has guardianship they can help in that, and important now to keep good communication with her doctors.
Thing is she could get the right medication cocktail and come out of this. Once released of sound enough mind, of course she would stop her medications and this would happen all over again. Mental health care here is a nightmare and we know almost zero to nothing what to do about it.
Your questions goes around how long can she live of water only. My question is are they talking about forced feedings? Try to prevent THAT as much as you can. With fluids alone you can live a long time. Months in fact. Eventually the body will begin to consume its own muscle and a crisis of some kind will happen with electrolytes and the heart will give up when the sodium-potassium stuff reaches crisis level. Even tiny amount of food can put this off for a long time. Reference that goofy TV program Naked and Afraid. They lose a tremendous amount of weight and eat almost nothing for 27 days. And still up and talking quite a lot. So the body will try to go on longer than you could ever imagine.
That said, 75 pounds means a lot of loss. Eventually she will go. I am not one to try to keep people in this much torture on our earth alive. I believe that life is tough and not everyone can or more importantly WANTS TO stay here. I believe, as an old Nurse, that there are MANY things worse than death, and I have seen them all including this. I am so sorry. Your pain is unimaginable for anyone save those who have gone through this; please try to find mental health family support groups. They have been there and are there with you, and you will know you are not alone. This isn't just HARD to watch it is almost impossible and you are helpless to help her. I am so VERY sorry.
Without ANY food, maybe a month to a month and a half. Without ANY water or fluid or food, sometimes as long as a week. More likely four or 5 days. The body can be very tough. Eventually systems will begin to shut down. The question is, what will the hospital do about that, then? Because they can keep her going pretty much for years.
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