Nursing home residents do not give up the right to smoke when they enter a nursing home. Nursing home residents are injured in smoking-related accidents at a higher rate than the population at large despite being in a supervised environment. There are two major cause of smoking related accidents in nursing homes:
Unsafe handling of smoking materials
One cause of smoking related accidents in nursing homes is unsafe handling of smoking materials including lighted cigarettes, matches, or lighters. There are a couple of different ways that this happens. One is because the residents has a physical impairment such as arthritis or a movement disorder like Parkinson’s disease which makes it difficult to physically handle smoking materials. These medical issues can result in the nursing home resident dropping them onto their clothing, onto their sheets, or somewhere else which can cause fire or burns. The other way this happens is if the resident suffers from dementia or confusion which results in them losing attention while handling smoking materials or disregarding safety measures or precautions, leading to a fire or burn injuries.
Flash fires from oxygen equipment
There are two things that fire needs to burn: oxygen and an ignition source. When a nursing home resident is smoking while either using some form of supplemental oxygen or near someone who is using supplemental oxygen, the smoking materials can provide the ignition source while the supplemental oxygen provide a rich source of oxygen for the fire.
The nursing home staff has an obligation to respect the resident’s right to smoke and to be knowledgeable about how the exercise of that right can result in smoking related fires in nursing homes. It is therefore their obligation to take measures which can help assure the safety of nursing home residents who smoke.