Recently Eldernet did a survey of residential care facilities in New Zealand and their stance on smoking. While it was not a scientifically valid survey, it did unearth some interesting points that are worth considering.

Rest Homes and other Aged Residential Care facilities are unique environments where they are both a place of work and somebody’s home. The survey uncovered tensions around a facility being someone’s home, the need to comply with DHB requirements, insurance requirements, health and safety and other residents’ requests.  What implications does this have for a smoking resident?

The survey found that some facilities enforce their “Smoke Free” status and opt to assist their prospective resident to quit smoking before they move into the facility, or they will assist a smoking resident to move off site to smoke.

Other facilities uphold that the facility is their resident’s home and will allow their residents to smoke on site, as long as it is outside and safe. One facility made the comment: “This is their home and such little pleasures that are left for them should be tolerated. We will all be in their position one day!”

The survey also found that there were a number of facilities that wanted to be smoke free, however it was difficult due to the mental health issues and disabilities of their residents. With one facility commenting: “If a resident does smoke and the mental health team says that this person should continue, we will supervise the resident smoking – but we will have control over lighters and cigarettes.”

Residents with dementia also posed a challenge with many forgetting that they cannot light up in their room as they would set off smoke alarms. “They forget that they have just had a cigarette… and it is hard on the staff trying not to be seen as the ‘Smoking Police’,” was another comment.

There were a number of sites that stated that they promoted themselves as “smoke free” but weren’t entirely. A number of facilities controlled access to lighters and/or cigarettes. Many sites offered cessation programmes and supported both residents and/or staff to quit. A number of facilities allowed their residents to smoke on site, however staff must smoke off site. Some facilities have a policy that they do not hire staff who smoke. Some facilities also have a policy that they do not admit residents who smoke.

It will be interesting to see how these issues will be resolved to reach a goal of a Smoke Free NZ in 2025. Will older smokers just be the 5% of New Zealanders who will be still be smokers in 2025?


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