Smoking is a nasty habit, and we’re all well aware of the negative health effects. The CDC estimates smoking will take 10 years off your life and most likely be a strong contributing factor to your death. However, while the question of starting to smoke should always be answered with a resounding no, is it okay for a patient to keep smoking once they enter end of life care?
The answer to this question is, maybe.
The goal of hospice and palliative care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible, not trying to cure the patient. So, if a patient is already suffering from multiple symptoms, aches, and pains, is it right for them to go through the unpleasantries of kicking the habit? In most cases, patients who are already addicted to smoking can keep smoking, provided it’s done safely.
Smoking poses several risks that need to be addressed if a patient wants to continue lighting up. The first risk is an oxygen tank, that is commonly given to hospice patients to assist them with breathing. These tanks contain 100% oxygen, which is highly flammable. If a patient smokes while using or around an oxygen tank, they can cause an explosion that can injure themselves or those around them.
The second risk also involves fire. Since hospice patients spend a lot of time in bed, they will likely want to smoke a few cigarettes in bed. If a patient smokes in bed and falls asleep with a lit cigarette, they can catch a blanket or pillow on fire. This could cause serious injury to the patient and possibly damage the home or hospital they’re living in. If a patient wants to smoke in bed, they need to do so under the watchful eye of a caregiver to ensure no accidents happen.
Choosing to smoke while going through end of life care is a personal decision that each patient and family will need to make. Ultimately, smoking should only continue when it will improve the patient’s quality of life and can be done safely. Navigating confusing decisions like this is what we do best at Cura-HPC. If you need help finding a hospice for a loved one, or have questions about how hospice works, please give us a call.