Smoking is a dangerous habit that many people have tried to quit without success. Many people will go through their whole life without facing ill effects from smoking, while others may contract serious diseases such as cancer. Regardless of the dangers, many seniors still prefer to maintain their smoking habits, despite the dangers. While keeping up a smoking habit may be feasible in a private home or apartment, it may not always be possible when moving into a long-term care facility.
Assisted living is made for still mainly independent seniors, but also those that may just need a little extra help with their daily tasks. Assisted living communities aim to allow residents to maintain their lives in the way they have become habituated while also living in a guarded senior community. While this seems like a perfect situation for most seniors, those who prefer to smoke may have some difficulty finding assisted living facilities that allow smoking.
Nationwide, there is a close to a total ban on indoor smoking in public areas. Locations such as restaurants, doctor's offices, public transportation, and even many entertainment venues have fallen under the banner of state smoking regulations. Smoking, as dangerous as it may be, is still a legal activity. Assisted living communities are meant to be as close to home as possible for seniors, which makes one wonder about the rules regarding whether smoking is permitted on the assisted living premises.
There are a few things to consider when answering this question. Does the assisted living home fall under the domain of a public location? Do the laws of the state allow for smoking in public areas? What are the facility policies?
Assisted living communities, in general, will often offer outdoor areas where their residents may smoke if they choose. Depending on the state regulations, some assisted living homes will also allow residents to smoke indoors in designated areas. Most facilities will ask that their employees avoid smoking while on the clock. They may also only allow them to do so during their break time in specific areas away from the residents.
Every assisted living location will have a different layout that can also affect the smoking policies. Assisted living communities that are arranged in an apartment-style setting may or may not allow their residents to smoke in their units or on the balconies of their units. There is no national regulation regarding smoking in assisted living facilities. Assisted living is largely regulated state-to-state which means that what is acceptable in one location may not be acceptable a few miles down the road. Some states have banned any and all smoking inside of inpatient health care facilities, which may include nursing homes and skilled nursing, assisted living facilities, and memory care units. Make sure to check the rules of your state as well as the assisted living home policies.
Smokers, regardless of their age still have the right to participate in any legal activity, which includes smoking. Although many states have banned smoking indoors and, in some cases, inside of assisted living communities altogether, concessions have been made. Assisted living homes in states that do not have an outright ban will provide an outdoor area that is designated for smokers. In many cases, this is nothing more than a sign attached to the wall in the parking lot.
Because seniors who are living in an assisted living community are considered at risk, this is not always ideal. Resident smokers who may have issues with mobility or elderly residents forced outside during inclement weather may become injured or unwell as a result. States that do not have a ban on smoking in assisted living facilities often have a separate guideline which dictates how resident smoking areas should be handled.
Most states will require that each facility establish safe smoking areas for residents and the staff. These areas also must include noncombustible ashtrays in those areas. There also must be an overhead covering to shield from the rain or other inclement weather. Though most regulations do declare that seating must be provided, most assisted living communities will include them in outdoor smoking locations.
Assisted living facilities set up in an apartment-style layout, as well as senior living apartments, will also have to follow certain guidelines. These can include fire safety rules, practicing fire drills, and having an evacuation plan on file to reduce the dangers of indoor smoking. Although nursing homes fall under the banner of federal regulation, assisted living homes do not. Federal regulation requires that sprinkler systems and smoke alarms are installed on the premises. Although most assisted living homes also use these safety features, they are not legally required.
Assisted living facilities are in the middle of the big debate regarding smoking, which can often make it difficult for seniors to find a long-term care facility to meet their needs. In some states, there are bans that conflict with other state laws and even federal laws which can cause them to lose any federal funding they receive. At the same time, by allowing smoking, assisted living homes face fines and censure for adhering to conflicting laws.
Many states have simply found a middle ground by required assisted living communities to create outdoor areas for their residents to smoke, which can include balconies. While this may not be the best idea for non-smokers, it is good news for seniors who have failed to kick the habit. Moving from a private home into an assisted living facility is a major change. Choosing to quit smoking is also a major change. It can be highly stressful to force seniors to make two life-changing choices at the same time, so much so that it may even have an adverse effect on their health.
Locating an assisted living community that allows smokers may be easier than you realize. Just like a regular search for a new home, you will need to consider your needs. Think about the level of assistance you will need in your new home. Also, think about how much you want to pay for monthly services, rent, and entertainment. For many seniors, living within a short distance of their friends and family members is important. For others, being close to cultural attractions, mass transit or medical centers is important.
There are many types of assisted living homes to choose from, and many of them may allow smoking. Some are arranged like high-end condominiums or apartment complexes, while more upscale and luxury assisted living facilities may be arranged in a resort-style layout. Many assisted living communities may be housed in a dorm-style location that offers their residents rooms inside of a larger building instead of separate apartments. Seniors who are aware that their care needs will change in a relatively short period may opt to live in a nursing home that has an assisted living wing attached to it.
Think about your current lifestyle, care needs, and expectations of the assisted living facility you plan to move into. Seniors who are used to a high level of independence may not like the dorm-style atmosphere of a smaller assisted living location. Alternatively, seniors who are very social or those prone to loneliness may not thrive in a free-standing apartment in a sprawling community.
Of course, being a smoker means that you will need to select a location that offers amenities that fit your needs. Look for locations that offer outdoor common areas, walking paths, and dedicated smoking areas. There should be locations near the common buildings and near the residential units that are easy to reach on foot, with a wheelchair, and without assistance. Smoking areas that are outdoors should also offer some form of overhang to protect from the sun and rain. Some locations may allow residents to smoke on their balconies, but make sure that you review the policy well in advance of your commitment.
In addition to the rules and regulations regarding smoking, you should also pay attention to what else the assisted living location has to offer. Meal plans may or may not be included, so make sure to ask about the menu and dining options. If you plan to continue cooking for yourself, find out if the space you will be provided comes with a kitchen, or if you are required to take prepared meals. Seniors living in assisted living communities are just as social or more social than they are when living at home. With less hassle to worry about, there is more time to mingle. Find out what type of social events, both planned and unplanned, occur at the facility.
Do you still enjoy going out on the town, shopping with friends, or just enjoying a spa day? Many assisted living facilities will offer these types of amenities on-site or transportation to nearby locations that offer them. Remember, this is going to be your new home, so make sure to look well beyond the ability to smoke when choosing an assisted living home.
The American Association of Public Health Physicians began supporting the use of e-cigarettes in adults. This is mainly because it is seen as a safer way for adults to obtain the nicotine their body craves while reducing health risks. Some assisted living locations that do not allow smoking indoors will allow smokeless alternatives such as e-cigarettes. There is no definite proof that they are safer for seniors than traditional cigarettes, however, there is no risk of others falling ill due to second-hand smoke-related complications. In addition, because there is no live fire, there is less of a chance of horrific accidents that can occur when a traditional cigarette is left unattended.
Smokers are at a higher risk of several diseases regardless of their age. Seniors especially are more susceptible to breathing complications, jaundice and heart complications as a result of smoking. Keeping these concerns in mind, it is important to review the safety measures the assisted living facility has in place in regards to smokers' health. Are there nurses on-site? Is there an emergency plan for accidental burns or other health complications from smoking? While not all locations will offer specific medical support only for smoking-related complications, it is worthwhile to select a community that allow smoking and has a comprehensive health program.
Security is also a concern. Most assisted living communities offer very good security around the residential areas, common areas, and dining spaces. While all caregivers will make sure their residents are safe, many official smoking areas are located outdoors. Make sure that the facility keeps these areas well lit, clean, and monitored if you are considering moving in.
If you are a smoker, or if you prefer to avoid being exposed to smoke in your assisted living community, it is important to check the policies in advance. Every assisted living home will have its own rules and policies regardless of those put in place by the state. Understanding the rules put in place by the facility will ensure that there are no conflicts with other residents or management at the home. The state regulations and the smoking rules of the facility are in place to ensure the health of the residents and the caregivers. If you are a smoking senior, make sure to review the policy on smoking in your assisted living unit or on the grounds prior to committing or signing a contract. For smoking seniors, know that there are assisted living homes that have dedicated areas for smoking.
No matter where you decide to settle, all assisted living communities will follow state or local laws that are in place for smoking in public places. In locations that do not have a specific state rule regarding public smoking, make sure to check the site's written policies. If you are a senior who is looking to avoid all contact with smoke, there are also assisted living communities that are strictly for non-smoking individuals.
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