When caring for the elderly, exposing them to second-hand smoke is out of the question. Even if a caregiver is smoking outside, he or she should take special care to ensure elderly residents aren’t exposed.
Working as a caregiver for the elderly is challenging, tiring but very rewarding. Elderly patients in care homes often require round-the-clock care, and as well as providing company for them, people working in elderly care need to ensure their medical and other needs are met. The elderly residents in an elderly care home are likely to be in a more fragile state of health than other adults or even other senior citizens, and as such, the risks of exposure to cigarette smoke are even more serious in these individuals. This puts an extra requirement on anybody working as a caregiver in a care home: to protect residents from exposure to second-hand smoke.
The Risks of Second-Hand Smoke for the Elderly
Second-hand smoke causes a wide range of health conditions, ordinarily the same ones as active smoking causes. For example, people exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung cancer or have heart problems as a result. It also adversely affects lung functioning, and can cause adult-onset asthma.
The risks of second-hand smoke are serious for everybody, but especially so for the elderly. Since older people are more likely to have heart problems, and many will have problems with their breathing, adding the risks of second-hand smoke into the mix is particularly dangerous. Additionally, many of the elderly residents may have a history of smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, so continuing this exposure in old age is particularly risky.
Reducing Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke in the Elderly
Thankfully, care homes for the elderly usually don’t allow smoking, so the risk of exposure for elderly residents is inherently limited. However, it is possible that outdoor smoking areas for staff members and residents will be close to areas where non-smoking residents and staff members will congregate, and in these cases there would be a risk of exposure to smoke. The best solution for this is to ensure that any outdoor smoking areas are far away from any areas non-smokers and residents will congregate, but if not, you need to be careful to ensure that you don’t smoke when non-smokers are nearby.
There may also be designated smoking areas indoors in the elderly care home. In this case, it’s important that the room has no shared ventilation with areas frequented by non-smokers. The door should also be self-closing and ideally the room should be as isolated as possible from the rest of the elderly care home.
Helping Elderly Patients Quit Smoking
While second-hand smoke is definitely a concern for residents, the biggest danger related to smoking and elderly care is for any elderly residents who still smoke. Encouraging them to quit should be a priority for any workers in the home, because it could make any health problems they’re struggling with much worse. Many of the health consequences of smoking are more likely to occur in old age, and in particular the risk of lung cancer is increased in elderly smokers.
The only problem with attempting to help older smokers quit is that they’re less likely to want to make a quit attempt in comparison to younger smokers. However, when they do make a quit attempt, they’re more likely to be successful. So for someone working in elderly care home, encouraging residents to make quit attempts is the main priority. If they do attempt to make a quit attempt, ensure that as much support as possible is available for them.
Third-Hand Smoke: Another Reason to Quit Smoking
Finally, there is growing concern about the potential health risks associated with third-hand smoke. This is the smoke that is deposited on surfaces and the hair and clothes of the smoker, which is then released into the air long after the cigarette is extinguished. Although the levels of harmful chemicals from third-hand smoke are lower than for second-hand smoke, as discussed in this post, the risks of such exposure are greater in the elderly.
This is another reason that any smokers working in elderly care should consider quitting. Even if you only smoke outside, well away from where any non-smokers congregate, you can still expose residents to harmful chemicals. Quitting will benefit your health too, but reducing residents’ exposure to the constituents of smoke is another benefit.
Smoking and Elderly Care: A Deadly Combination
Overall, smoking and elderly care is not a good mix. The risks of second-hand smoke are especially serious for elderly residents, and taking as much care as possible to protect elderly residents from exposure is essential for anybody working in an elderly care home. As well as encouraging residents to quit smoking, if you smoke, quitting should be your number one priority to protect those under your care.