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Challenges of residents' smoking habits

June 10, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
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My first blog for Long-Term Living reflected my opinion of nursing home smoking policy. Currently, I have been living in a behavior facility for almost three years. Resident smokers have seven smoke breaks a day and two staff members must accompany them for security. So, they get 70 minutes of one-on-one time with staff each day.

There is no doubt that smoke breaks improve the attitude of resident smokers. Smoking also gives them something to look forward to.  However, when residents misbehave their smoke breaks are taken away.

As a lifelong nonsmoker, I have endured secondhand smoke from my parents, relatives, friends and from nursing home staff (when they could still smoke indoors). Secondhand smoke did not concern me much until my 30s when I discovered I was allergic to it.  When I still lived at home, my caregivers could smoke in the garage or outside. But they could not smoke in my home.

Even though nursing home residents and staff smoke outdoors, they still bring smoke back into the building. One evening when my door was open a large waft of smoke came into my room after the 10 p.m. smoke break, which caused my nose and lungs to burn. I know cigarette smoke causes me to get more colds. That concerns me since I have had two serious respiratory infections, one which required hospitalization, in the past two years.

At a previous facility, smokers went outdoors on their own to smoke. They no longer were accompanied by staff as they once were.

During the evening hours residents are more likely to act out and be disruptive. So sometimes covering smoke breaks is challenging for staff.  Second shift aides must assist with the last three smoke breaks. Even though residents are only allowed one cigarette, their breaks are at least ten minutes.

Residents lose precious care time when aides stop what they are doing to assist with smoke breaks. I think residents can smoke as long as their smoke breaks do not affect resident health or detract from resident care.

Since four of the seven smoke breaks a day are covered by activity and hospitality staff, perhaps other staff could cover the remaining three. If there are no activity or hospitality aides working, smoke break assistance falls back on the aides and nurses.

If there were a large window exhaust fan near the door which leads to the smoke deck, the smoke would be blown away from the building when the smokers come back into the building.

Related article: Your collective smoking policy

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...