Do you have an older loved one in your life you would love to help quit smoking? Perhaps it’s a parent? Maybe it’s a close friend of yours? Regardless of your relationship, you care about this person and you hate to see them doing something that puts their health at risk. Here are a few tips to guide you in your efforts to successfully help your senior loved one quit smoking.
Seniors and Smoking
As you know, smoking comes with a long list of side-effects. Aside from lung cancer, smokers are also more susceptible to various health problems including (but certainly not limited to) heart disease, other types of cancer, and respiratory issues. Unfortunately, many of these health problems are also commonly found in older adults regardless of whether or not they smoke. Aging intensifies these health problems – putting older adults at risk. Unfortunately, many of the issues associated with smoking are also commonly found among older adults regardless of whether or not they smoke.
Understand, Quitting is Hard
If you could only do one thing to help your loved one, it is to fully understand that quitting smoking is hard. Given that age and smoking are contributing factors to many of the same health problems, smoking seniors are particularly concerning. It’s no wonder you want your loved one kick their habit. You not only want them to be around for as long as possible, but you also want them to be able to enjoy their remaining years.
If you’ve never been a smoker, it may be difficult for you to grasp why your loved one is doing something they know is bad for them. But smoking is more than just a bad habit; smoking is an addiction. And like most addictions, the root of the problem is multifaceted. There are physical, mental (behavioral), and social aspects of addiction that make quitting challenging.
Physical addition. The physical addiction associated with smoking is from the nicotine found in cigarettes. Nicotine is known to be an addictive chemical because it causes the brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine. Unfortunately, once the nicotine disappears, so does the good feeling.This is what leaves your friend craving another cigarette.
Mental (Behavioral) Addition. Your friend can have a greater difficulty smoking if it’s part of his or her daily routine. Many people smoke during specific times of the day such as when they are driving or while they are drinking their morning cup of coffee. Others smoke when they feel a certain way. Feeling stressed or tired are common triggers.
Social Addiction. Another common issue smokers struggle with is the social addiction. It’s possible your loved one smokes more often when socializing, like when they go to parties or when they take smoke breaks with coworkers. Your loved one may feel less able to comfortably socialize after they quit smoking.
It is easier to understand how difficult it is for your loved one to quit when you know some of the challenges they face. When your loved one makes the attempt to quit, they are not only refraining from the actual act of smoking. They are attempting to withstand physiological changes in their body (physical addiction), alter their lifestyle and ignore triggers (mental/behavioral addiction) and learn new social habits (social addiction).
Before you talk to your loved one about quitting, it’s important to do your research. Going into the conversation knowing what you are talking about will help you position yourself as a knowledgeable source. This will help you show them how much you care about them and their well-being.
Let them know how their body will recover once they quit. Encourage them by emphasizing that many effects take place almost immediately.
20 minutes after your loved one has their last cigarette, their heart rate and blood pressure drop down towards a normal rate.
12 hours after they quit, the carbon monoxide level in their blood drops back down to normal.
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, their circulation and lung function improve.
1 – 9 months after quitting, they will likely experience a decrease in coughing and shortness of breath. The cilia start to regain normal function in the lungs which increases the ability to handle mucus by cleaning the lungs and reducing the risk of infection.
1 year after your loved one quits, their risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half. Also, their risk of having a heart attack drops dramatically.
2 years after quitting, their risk for developing cervical cancer falls to that of a non-smoker.
5 years after they kicked their habit, their risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half.
10 years after their last cigarette, their risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decrease as well.
15 years after they kick their habit, the risk of coronary disease is that of a non-smokers.
You want to be able to provide your loved one with an abundance of reasons they should quit. There are other positive reasons to quit aside from the health benefits. This includes saving money, not smelling like cigarettes, and being able to taste food better.
Having the Conversation About Quitting
If you have already made an attempt to talk to your loved one about their smoking habit, you know how difficult it can be. This can be a sensitive topic for many, especially if they have been smoking for some time. If you go about it the wrong way, you could leave your loved one feeling defensive and you could put your relationship at risk. Here are a few tips for starting the conversation about quitting.
Respond positively. If your loved one starts to bring up the topic of quitting first, respond positively. Let them know you support them and would love to do anything to help them.
Ease into the topic. Ask them if they ever thought about quitting and/or find out why they smoke.
Refrain from nagging. Do not nag your loved one about quitting. It will annoy them and make them less likely to go to you for help when they do decide to quit. For those of you who don’t know, nagging can be anything from feeding them a list of facts about the negative effects of smoking or counting the number of cigarettes they smoke.
Find out how they started. Help your friend understand why they light up to gain a better understanding of how to help them quit. If they smoke more when they are stressed, help them find ways to reduce their levels of stress.
Quit Smoking Plan
Once your loved one decides they need to quit, it is important for them to come up with a plan. This plan is going to be a very important tool to help guide them through the process. Here are a few things to include in their quit plan.
Why. Help your loved one identify the real reason they want to quit. It needs to be something important such as wanting to be around to watch their grandchildren grow up or being able to attend their daughter’s wedding. Their why is going going to be the driving force that keeps them motivated.
Replacement. Help your loved one find replacements for their smoking habit. Some smokers find that chewing gum is helpful or finding a way to keep their hands busy.
Stress management. Help your loved one find healthy ways to manage their stress. This could be anything from exercising, going to the movies, or meditating. Help them identify the method that works best for them.
Medication. There are many medications proven to help smokers quit. Sit down with your loved one and decide if they should use medication to help them kick their addiction. This may be a good idea if your loved one has trouble with the physical aspects of quitting.experiences many of the physical symptoms of quitting.
Social support. Help your loved one put together a support system. Make it clear that you are on their list.
Quitting is a Journey
Your loved one has likely been smoking for a long time. When they attempt to quit, they are attempting the change a lifestyle they have had for a long time. Quitting is not going to happen overnight and it may be something they struggle with for a long time. It’s important to understand they are doing their best and be patient with them as they try to overcome their addiction. Remain optimistic if they relapse, recognize their efforts, and reward them every step of the way. To successfully help your senior loved one quit smoking, you need to ensure they understand you are invested in their journey as much as they are.
“How to Successfully Help a Senior Loved One Quit Smoking,” Ashley LeVine, Amada Blog Contributor.