Smokefree rest homes 'elder abuse'

An aged care group has labelled a scheme by MidCentral District Health Board requiring new rest homes to be smokefree a type of elder abuse.

A new clause being rolled out by the health board will see future rest home developments in the region required to be smokefree.

Existing aged-care providers can sign up to be smokefree on a voluntary basis, and MidCentral deputy chief executive Mike Grant said a "high number" have already signed up to the initiative.

But Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor said this approach is wrong on a number of levels.

"First, a blanket approach to smoking ignores the rights of the elderly in a setting which is meant to be as home like as possible," he said.

"It also ignores the reality that in one of the most difficult stages of someone's life the health board wants to forcibly stop the elderly doing something that brings them comfort.

"It's tantamount to elder abuse."

Those that have will be required to monitor their outdoor grounds, with people caught smoking either warned or fined, by July 1, 2014.

All residents and staff at aged-care providers that have signed up to the policy must also have access to support services to help them kick the habit in the lead-up to going smokefree.

The policy is part of the goal to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.

Mr Grant said MidCentral had been including smokefree clauses on a voluntary basis.

"Providers to date have been open and supportive of this approach, so it was agreed to roll this into all contract variations going forward," he said.

Mr Taylor said the average age of entry into aged residential care is 84, which means the current group of rest home residents were born in 1929 -  an era where smoking was accepted, cheap and deemed to be healthy.
 
"Don't get me wrong smoking is an unhealthy habit, but if you have managed to be a smoker for a few decades and beat the odds and enter aged residential care you should have this lifestyle choice supported," he said.

Manawatu Standard