QUESTION: My adult son is suffering from lung cancer. At this point, I am his sole caregiver and he lives in my home. I am working with his doctors to give him every chance of beating his disease by preparing nutritious meals, encouraging light exercise, keeping his spirits up and even praying with him. My challenge is that he continues to smoke cigarettes. I do not allow this in my house, so he walks out to the front porch and lights up several times a day. His actions are breaking my heart and, I’m sure, not helping him to regain wellness. With the support of his doctors, I’ve spoken to him about his addiction and how harmful it is. But, so far, nothing has helped. Do you have any recommendations for me?—Nora
DEAR NORA: Your situation is, indeed, heartbreaking. Your son is an adult and responsible for his own actions. Not allowing him to smoke in the house sets up your boundaries, but at this point, there isn’t much more you can do. According to Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) standards, your son appears to have the symptoms of nicotine addiction, especially since he continues to smoke despite severe health implication. You did not mention whether or not he has actually attempted to stop smoking. If he has, the withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, restlessness and depression may have been overwhelming to him considering his illness. Your son may continue to smoke since the drug nicotine produces physical and mood-altering effects smokers find pleasing. Have you discussed this situation with his physician? Perhaps he or she can offer some guidance. No matter what the future holds, it is important that you care for your own health. Steer clear of second-hand smoke both in your home and vehicle. Many U.S. government departments such as the Department of Agriculture require smoking designated areas be at least 25 feet from any doorway or air intake ducts. Make sure at least that distance from your home is honored by your son.As his caregiver, you are preparing nutritious meals, encouraging exercise and offering spiritual support. Try to take some solace in the fact that you are providing positive actions in his life. Continue to try and help your son to understand the devastating effects of nicotine on the human body. Gently reassure him of your love and wish to create a sense of wellness in his life.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.com or Amazon.com. Click here to ask her a question.