About smoking

Ah yes, the facility smoking issue—I have thought about that for a long time. When I first came to live in a nursing home 12 years ago, residents were allowed to smoke four times a day (two cigarettes per session) either in the dining room or outside on the front porch with an aide observing them. Employees could smoke in their break room or anywhere outside. It did not take me very long to figure out that the residents who smoked got much more one-on-one time with the activity aide then the rest of us. I was not a big activity person per se. Bingo is not my thing, and there were few other activities I could participate in with my functional limitations.

I remember telling an activity aide how I felt about smokers being given extra one-on-one time. She responded by inviting me to come outdoors with the smokers as the weather warmed that spring. Longing for company—especially with the activity aide who was close to my age—I took her up on it. I eagerly went outside at least twice a day and would sit up wind from the smokers. Then, the activity aide and I would have a nice chat along with those smokers who chose to join in. Some were painfully quiet and said very little. Most had to be watched to make sure they did not drop their cigarette on themselves and get burned. I liked the idea that I was helping out with that.

When the weather turned cooler smoking moved indoors for the most part, but I did not spend much time in the dining room at the indoor smoking sessions. The special ashtrays that were supposed to remove the smoke did not do that good of a job and I only went if I was really starved for company and conversation.

Residents or their family members were responsible for buying cigarettes. If my friend ran low, I sometimes purchased cigarettes for her. Before that I had never bought cigarettes in my life. I remember thinking when I bought them, “You so disapprove of this.” But I felt that residents in nursing homes had to give up so much and I felt that smoking two cigarettes four times a day was not that bad. Cigarettes were normally locked up, so I was always concerned that my friend might never get the cigarettes that I gave her. I had observed that sometimes staff borrowed cigarettes from the residents' cigarette stash. I remember shuddering at the thought and could not imagine taking anything away from these residents.

A few years later the facility required employees to smoke outside only … behind the building. Meanwhile, the residents were encouraged to smoke outdoors whenever possible. I could tell that management was attempting to limit the smoking indoors. With employees smoking outside, and residents smoking outside more, the smell of smoke dissipated in the building. But you could definitely tell from the color of the walls near the break room where the employees used to smoke. I hate that smell. I had banished cigarette smoking from my home long before I came to the nursing home, and I myself have never smoked.

In 2006, Ohio passed an indoor smoking ban for all commercial buildings, including nursing homes. After that residents were required to smoke outdoors only … behind the building. They were still allowed four smoking sessions a day observed by an aide. Over time it seemed like fewer and fewer residents smoked. Then we were told that the facility might no longer admit residents who smoked (but that has yet to happen). We still have residents who smoke and most of them are observed in a group. Some residents are allowed to go out on their own to smoke.

From time to time residents have taken it upon themselves to smoke in their room. Recently, a visitor brought in smoking materials and the resident proceeded to light up in a room where there was oxygen. Luckily, a nurse discovered it quickly. She admitted that it scared her to death. It is hard to believe that visitors would bring in smoking materials to a resident without telling anyone. Possibly that was a mistake. The facility is being remodeled and all “no smoking” signs inside have been removed. Maybe some visitors and residents are not aware that they are banned from smoking in their rooms.

I think smokers have the right to smoke, but only in a controlled environment where they will not infringe upon the rights and safety of other residents. I did not vote for Ohio's smoking ban, and I have no problem with residents smoking as long as they abide by the rules.


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