Maybe its due to the fact that smoking is such a commonplace activity in nursing homes, many staff simply fail to understand its potentially dangerous impact on both the individual smoker— as well as the overall safety of all patients and staff at the facility.
The fact remains, hundreds of thousands of nursing home patients smoke cigarettes on a regular basis. As such, nursing homes need to both create and implement a smoking safety policy to minimize the chance of fire and injury at their facilities. Further, the smoking policy should be reviewed with patients and their families to help encourage compliance and rectify and misunderstandings.
Though certainly not formally addressed by federal or state law, many nursing homes have incorporated some of the following safety protocols in their smoking policies:
- Limit smoking activities to particular areas– indoors or out
- Never allowing smoking in bed or individual patient rooms
- Keep smoking materials away from oxygen tanks and other flammables
- Provide ‘smoking aprons’- fire retardant devices to prevent clothes from catching fire
- Provide adequate staffing so patients who require assistance can be adequately supervised
Disastrous Consequences Related To Inadequate Safety
I was reminded of the life-changing injuries that can rapidly result when smoking policies are not properly implemented when I read about an Australian woman in a nursing home who sustained severe burns to more than half of her body when the cigarette she was smoking dropped and lit her clothes on fire. Shortly after the incident, the woman died from the resulting burns.
An inquiry into this nursing home incident revealed that the incident occurred when the woman was left to smoke– without any staff supervision– as the care plan created by the nursing home suggested. Like many nursing home patients, this woman suffered from conditions such as: dementia, arthritis, and a history of dropping her cigarette ashes onto her lap.
As a nursing home lawyer, who has litigated smoking-related injury cases, I share the frustration and anger many families experience when their loved one is injured while smoking at a nursing home. Certainly, facilities need to recognize the smoking-dangers and assign the necessary staff to maximize patient safety.
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