Globally, the use of tobacco which usually manifests itself through the habit of smoking has been a leading cause of death and disability in older adults. Research and studies also reveal that elders who smoke have twice the rate of mortality as compared to the non-smokers. With the ever-increasing population of the elderly persons worldwide, the costs associated with the health, economic and social aspects of smoking continue to rise at alarming rates.
With growing awareness of the increased health hazards due to smoking, it is important to make conscious efforts on protecting the older generation from quitting this habit both in the active and passive forms. Here it is important to reinstate that any age is right to quit smoking. It is often presumed that seasoned smokers cannot do it and they lack the impulse and motivation. However, the advantages of stopping smoking are well-proven with immediate tangible benefits despite the age of the smoker.
To demonstrate special attention and concern on this healthcare endeavour, ‘No Smoking Day in India’ is observed on the second Wednesday of March annually. The main idea of doing this is to increase public awareness of the detrimental health effects of tobacco consumption through cigarettes and other similar products. It conveys an important message to smokers and encourages them to get rid of this bad habit developed due to nicotine dependency. Smoking in public places is also banned in India.
Elderly Smoking Risks
- Initially begins with coughing and irritation in the throat region which may be accompanied by bad breath.
- Eventually leads to discolouration of the teeth and patches in the skin.
- Reduces the life expectancy by about thirteen years as compared to the non-smokers.
- Nearly seventy percent of fatalities due to smoking occur due to cancer.
- Elderly smokers are more prone to lung-related ailments as bronchitis and pneumonia which often results in death due to their low immunity.
- Aggravates the risk of age-related diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, stroke and heart ailments.
- Leads to dementia, severe cognitive dysfunction and impairments.
- Reduces the overall physical stamina and strength and also negatively impacts body immunity mechanisms.
- Enhances risk of macular degeneration, development of cataracts and causes recline in the senses of hearing, smelling and tasting.
Treatment for Quitting Smoking
Smoking cessation is substantially more difficult for seniors who have been long-time smokers as it is not merely related to their addiction but also encompasses their social and personal identity aspects. They also often fail to accept that their hospitalization and illnesses are inter-related to their smoking routines.
Some approaches for elderly to quit smoking are
- Enrolling them in Smoking Cessation Programs and Support Groups which may include individual counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and even support through telephone helpline. Facilities for medical counselling at home can also be availed where healthcare professionals advise elders on the endangered risks of smoking and motivate them to quit the habit by clearly showcasing its benefits. Additionally, nursing care for seniors not only helps elders in discontinuing this habit and handles related health issues but also prevents them from inhaling secondary smoke. It also provides customized programs for dealing with stress and treating difficulties during nicotine withdrawal.
- Undergoing the Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) after consulting the physician. This is done by using products that contain low levels of nicotine without incorporating other harmful effects of tobacco like nasal sprays, lozenges, nicotine gums, patches and inhalers. That helps in easing the physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings and aids the psychological aspects of quitting.
- Using Medication for quitting smoking like Zyban and Chantix strictly under medical supervision.
So help elderly smokers quit the habit NOW by encouraging and supporting them to enjoy health and blissful aging!