Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nursing Home Smoking: A Hospice Volunteer’s View (Video 1:16 mins.)

According to MI law relating to nursing homes, smoking is either not allowed or restricted to certain areas of nursing homes. This whole idea of smoking in “restricted” areas reminds me of a restaurant I visited where smokers and non-smokers were separated by five feet of aisle space down the center of a small room. I could actually see a cloud of smoke hanging over the non-smoking section. Where was the “restricted” area?

A nursing home is a healthcare institution. Considering the fragile mental and physical conditions of many residents, I question the safety of some of the restricted areas. Several of my hospice patients who smoked had oxygen tanks stationed near their beds. As if the fire hazard of smoking is not enough, the issue of healthcare should certainly be more of a priority.

All the nursing homes where I volunteered had indoor smoking areas to accommodate patients and staff who wanted to smoke. I held my breath to avoid second-hand smoke every time I briefly entered a smoking room to get a chair when they were not available in the halls. Smoke, which was both seen and smelled, floated into the halls every time the doors to smoking rooms opened. Whether they smoked or not, everybody’s nostrils were assaulted with sucker punches of first or second-hand smoke.

In this video, an elderly woman who uses an oxygen tank sparked a fire at an apartment complex for the elderly. While she was not in a nursing home smoking area, the resulting fire and crisis in having to protect, console, and evacuate all the other residents to buses taking them to a shelter could easily have happened at a nursing home.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”


  1. This is always such a touchy subject, especially when considering smoking is a coping mechanism for many people. But I have seen hospitals do this with a lot of initial fuss but then everyone seemed to get used to it.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Christian. Yes, this is a touchy subject. At the same time, it makes "smoking for quality of life" an oxymoron. I just can't justify the second-hand smoke being forced on non-smokers so smokers, many with lung and throat cancer, can cope better. Other coping methods must be established. The fire hazard makes matters even worse. Non-smokers deserve quality of life, too.

    I am glad that hospitals are making progress in this area. Hopefully, all healthcare institutions will follow.