Many older adults grew up with a different culture of smoking than is seen today.
While they may understand that smoking is harmful, years of addiction may have made quitting feel impossible. The effects of tobacco have likely taken a toll on your loved one’s body. When you care about someone, you do not want to see them suffer or increase their health risks.
It can be challenging to approach the subject of addiction. Many seniors may feel that there is no point in quitting smoking this late in the game. Failure to successfully stop in the past might make them feel like there is no point in trying again.
We have put together practical information to help you encourage your loved one to quit smoking and support them throughout the process.
Know the Facts
Lung cancer is not the only risk associated with smoking. Smokers are more susceptible to various health problems including (but not limited to) heart disease, other types of cancer, and respiratory issues. Many of these problems are found in older adults whether they smoke or not, but smoking places older adults at higher risk.
Quitting will help their body recover. Many effects can take place almost immediately! Here are benefits from smokefree.gov:
Broken addiction cycle
Quitting smoking can re-wire your brain and help break the cycle of addiction. The large number of nicotine receptors in your brain will return to normal levels after about a month of being quit.
HEAD AND FACE
Quitting smoking will keep your hearing sharp. Remember, even mild hearing loss can cause problems (like not hearing directions correctly and doing a task wrong).
Quitting smoking will improve your night vision and help preserve your overall vision by stopping the damage that smoking does to your eyes.
Nobody likes a dirty mouth. After a few days without cigarettes, your smile will be brighter. Quitting smoking now will keep your mouth healthy for years to come.
Quitting smoking is better than anti-aging lotion. Quitting can help clear up blemishes and protect your skin from premature aging and wrinkling.
Decreased heart risks
Smoking is the leading cause of heart attacks and heart disease. But many of these heart risks can be reversed simply by quitting smoking. Quitting can lower your blood pressure and heart rate almost immediately. Your risk of a heart attack declines within 24 hours.
When you quit smoking, your blood will become thinner and less likely to form dangerous blood clots. Your heart will also have less work to do, because it will be able to move the blood around your body more easily.
Quitting smoking will not get rid of the fatty deposits that are already there. But it will lower the levels of cholesterol and fats circulating in your blood, which will help to slow the buildup of new fatty deposits in your arteries.
Stop lung damage
Scarring of the lungs is not reversible. That is why it is important to quit smoking before you do permanent damage to your lungs. Within two weeks of quitting, you might notice it’s easier to walk up the stairs because you may be less short of breath. Don’t wait until later; quit today!
There is no cure for emphysema. But quitting when you are young, before you have done years of damage to the delicate air sacs in your lungs, will help protect you from developing emphysema later.
Return of cilia
Cilia start to regrow and re-gain normal function very quickly after you quit smoking. They are one of the first things in your body to heal. People sometimes notice that they cough more than usual when they first quit smoking. This is a sign that the cilia are coming back to life. But you’re more likely to fight off colds and infections when you’re cilia are working properly.
Lower cancer risk
Quitting smoking will prevent new DNA damage from happening and can even help repair the damage that has already been done. Quitting smoking immediately is the best way to lower your risk of getting cancer.
STOMACH AND HORMONES
Quitting smoking will reduce your belly fat and lower your risk of diabetes. If you already have diabetes, quitting can help you keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Normal estrogen levels
If you’re a woman, your estrogen levels will gradually return to normal after you quit smoking. And if you hope to have children someday, quitting smoking right now will increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy in the future.
If you quit smoking now, you can lower your chances of erectile dysfunction and improve your chances of having a healthy sexual life.
BLOOD AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Normal white blood cell count
When you quit smoking, your body will begin to heal from the injuries that smoking caused. Eventually, your white blood cell counts will return to normal and will no longer be on the defensive.
Quitting smoking will improve blood flow to wounds, allowing important nutrients, minerals, and oxygen to reach the wound and help it heal properly.
Stronger immune system
When you quit smoking, your immune system is no longer exposed to tar and nicotine. It will become stronger, and you will be less likely to get sick.
MUSCLES AND BONES
Quitting smoking will help increase the availability of oxygen in your blood, and your muscles will become stronger and healthier.
Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of fractures, both now and later in life. Keep your bones strong and healthy by quitting now.
Starting the Conversation
Addiction is a sensitive topic. You may be faced with hostility or apathy when trying to start a conversation about quitting. Lean into the subject with compassion and positivity. Here are a few tips:
Ease into The Topic
The nagging approach rarely works. Nagging can be pushing a list of facts about harmful side effects or counting the number of cigarettes they smoke. Instead, listen to why it has been difficult. Remind your loved one that it is okay to try again. This time, you are there to support them. Let them know you are not there to criticize.
Understand Why They Smoke
Many people smoke to relieve stress. Help them find ways to replace smoking with a positive activity that provides a similar utility: stress relief, socialization, etc.
Create A Plan
Once your loved one decides to quit smoking, it is essential to come up with a plan. The plan will be a guide through the process. Here are a few things to include in your plan:
Help your loved one understand the real reason they want to quit. A clear reason why can be a powerful motivator when working to quit smoking. It should be something meaningful like wanting to watch grandchildren grow up.
Replacement is a big way to substitute the habit of smoking. Many smokers find that chewing gum or keeping their hands busy is helpful.
Stress management smokers during the complicated process of quitting. Smoking was likely something they did during a time of stress. Working out, going to the movies or meditating can all help alleviate stress.
Today, there are many medications to help smokers quit. We recommend consulting with a doctor to ensure nothing interacts negatively with other medications.
Help your loved one put together a support system and make it clear that you are on that list.
Smokefree.gov has a great free tool to build your quit plan. Learn more here.
Quitting Is A Journey
It is important to realize that quitting will not happen overnight. There will be ups and downs. Support and kindness are critical to your loved one’s success. Remain optimistic if they relapse, acknowledge their efforts and reward their success. When you invest in their journey, they are more likely to succeed.