The Great American Smokeout: What Seniors and Caregivers Need To Know
Many seniors think it’s too late for them to quit smoking. The truth is that it's not only possible to kick the habit later in life, but doing so is accompanied by a multitude of benefits. The Great American Smokeout Event—celebrated this year on Thursday, November 19th—offers the perfect opportunity to set and achieve smoking cessation goals. Let’s take a look at this important observation, along with what caregivers can do to help seniors live longer, healthier lives by quitting smoking.
Why Do We Need The Great American Smokeout?
Tobacco use is the country’s single largest preventable cause of disease and early death. Approximately 42 million Americans smoke cigarettes, while millions more smoke cigars and pipes. Every year in the U.S., just under 500,000 people die from cigarette smoking-related causes, including secondhand smoke exposure.
Celebrated every year on the third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout challenges people to decide to stop smoking for a single 24-hour period. The hope? That the decision will last forever. But even if your aging loved one isn’t ready to stop smoking, November 19th also offers the chance to start making plans to quit.
The Benefits of Kicking the Habit
Quitting smoking improves quality of life in many ways—from less coughing and fewer wrinkles to increased energy and financial savings. Kicking the habit also lowers the risk of a number of life-threatening diseases, including stroke, heart attack, bronchitis and even cataracts.
Still think there’s no point for seniors to stop smoking?
Consider these short-term benefits:
- Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, heart rates, blood pressure, and body temperature stabilize to normal levels.
- Within 8 hours of quitting, nicotine levels in the bloodstream reduce by over 93%.
- Within two weeks to three months of quitting, both lung function and heart health improve.
And these long-term benefits:
- 1 year after quitting, the risk of coronary disease is reduced by 50%
- 5 years after quitting, stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker
- 10 years after quitting, lung cancer death rate is equal to someone who does not smoke, and precancerous cells have been replaced
Quitting smoking also increases the chances of successful treatment for seniors who suffer from other chronic diseases or health problems.
Stop Smoking Tools
Your doctor can offer you valuable insight into determining the best smoking cessation plan for you. Medicare’s smoking and tobacco use cessation program, which offers eight face-to-face counseling sessions over a 12-month period, is a great starting point for many seniors. The National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Lung Association are also helpful resources.
Most people find that a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and emotional support add up to the best chances of success. In fact, research indicates that the greater the support system a smoker has, the more likely he is to be successful in reaching his smoking cessation goals. If you’re a caregiver, you can play an instrumental role in providing encouragement to your aging loved one while reminding him or her of the reasons they are quitting.
Smoking doesn't just impact smokers, which is one reason why Presbyterian Senior Living communities are tobacco-free. We are dedicated to the wellbeing of older adults and staff within our communities by fostering healthy, livable environments. We understand helping a loved one quit smoking—or quitting yourself—can sometimes be overwhelming, but consider this heartening news: According to a 2014 report from the Surgeon General, there are currently more former smokers than current smokers in this country. We encourage you to get involved with the Great American Smokeout in your own home or community to help us get one step closer to a smoke-free future for seniors who smoke and the people who love them.
About Presbyterian Senior Living
Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 85 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.