We all know smoking is dangerous and bad for your health. From contributing to heart disease, lung cancer and other illnesses as well as increasing the risk of home fires, smoking is not conducive to aging in place. Stopping smoking makes sense, but it is not always an easy thing to do. This is especially true for a senior who might have been puffing on cigarettes for years, decades even, and may be reluctant to quit.
If your loved one smokes, you might consider it your mission to help them stop. This is a noble cause that can significantly improve their health and even yours. Taking this step is not without challenges, but if you can get through them, your family will gain a lot.
The first step in helping a loved one to stop smoking is to realize the challenges they are facing. Quitting is hard because there is often a physical, emotional and psychological addiction to nicotine. There are social impacts of quitting, and it is a behavior that is often very hard to change. This is often especially true if a senior has friends who smoke or a spouse who smokes. In those cases, quitting can make them feel isolated at a time in life when their health and age are already increasing feelings of loneliness.
Armed with Information
Once you come to terms with why quitting is so difficult, arm yourself with some information. Going into a conversation with a loved one knowing what you are talking about makes it easier to answer their questions and stand your ground. Since the primary reason for quitting is health, be ready to talk to them about things that will happen to their body when they quit. Some positive changes happen quickly. For instance, 20 minutes after a person smokes their last cigarette, their blood pressure can begin to drop toward normal. Some take much longer. Five years after quitting, the risk of throat, esophagus and mouth cancer drops by nearly half. There are many other health advantages to quitting too.
Having a Conversation
Arming your loved one with lots of reasons to quit is often a key motivator in getting them to stop. Walk into the conversation ready with this information, and your chances of finding success increase.
The actual conversation about quitting often feels very difficult for a family caregiver. Ease into the topic by asking why they smoke and if they have ever thought about quitting. Remain positive. Let them know they have your support and you only want to help. If your loved one does not immediately respond with willingness to quit, avoid nagging. While it is good to remain persistent, sometimes you have to start and stop the conversation a few times before a person is ready to quit.
Making a Plan
If your loved one does decide that the time is right to try quitting, they will need a plan to find success. Talking to a doctor is a great idea. They can suggest medications or nicotine replacement therapy that might assist. Help your loved one find a replacement for smoking such as chewing gum. Offer support and encourage others in your network to do the same. This can include asking for positive support from friends, family members or even professional caregivers who spend time in the home. Finally, consider the stress level in the home. If it is high, an important component in quitting will be finding ways to positively deal with stress instead of reaching for a cigarette.
When a senior makes the decision to quit smoking, they are starting on a path to change a lifelong habit that in some ways identifies them. Show patience and compassion as they take this journey, and remind them of the million reasons they have to quit. Remain optimistic and ensure that as many people as possible are on their side. With support, quitting is possible.
Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley encourages seniors to remain healthy and independent in every stage of life. Our accredited in home services enhance quality of life and improve a senior’s ability to age in place. If we can help your family, give us a call and request a complimentary, no obligation consultation.