Dad's health is declining, and he's a heavy smoker. We are not sure what to do anymore.

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Dad lives in a retirement facility. He does no cleaning and leaves soiled diapers, dirty dishes, cigarette butts around. My sister and I had the place thoroughly cleaned recently so we could set up to have the housekeeping staff come 2X/week to do light cleaning, but the apartment stinks so badly of cigarettes even after the cleaning that the staff are refusing to come.

He is starting to confuse his medications so we set up for staff to come daily and help with his meds, but even those people are refusing to come now due to the smell.

The other day, Dad left all 4 gas burners on his stove on overnight so the facility unhooked the stove. He doesn't know how to use the microwave though we've taught him many times, and refuses to get a hot plate because he thinks they’ll hook up the stove again. He has always had a bit of an anorexic mindset, but now he is hardly eating anything. He says he still goes to the dinner at the facility, but other than that one meal I think he is eating a few cookies a day.

He is not washing himself much, which adds to the unpleasant smells. He is good about wearing his diapers and telling me when I need to re-order them.

But he is at the point where it would be nice to have people wash him and have all meals prepared for him. The place he is now is 25 minutes from my sister and husband and I and we all work more than 40 hour weeks and have families. We would love to move him to an assisted living place closer to us so we could spend more time with him (now each of us picks him up ~1x/week) but so far he is adamantly opposed to moving. But if he has to move to assisted living anyway….?

I know how devastating it can be for a person with dementia to move but I don’t know what else we can do as we can’t get help to go in his apartment. It truly stinks to high heaven and in one way I don’t blame them, on the other hand aren’t we paying them to deal with disgusting situations?

If he goes to assisted living in his current facility I’m sure they don’t allow smoking, and I guess we could just not take him to buy cigarettes but something tells me he’d find a way to get them, smoke them in his new apartment, and get thrown out.

I’ll confess, I took Dad shopping today and did all this stuff for him, and when I got back from getting him food and found him smoking in my car, when he knows that is absolutely forbidden, I unloaded on him. I’ve been begging him since I was 10 years old to stop smoking. When my beloved mom was dying of COPD and could no longer leave the house his idea of chivalry was to bring her cigarettes. She told me many times that if Dad didn’t get her smokes, she’d quit because she’d have no choice. I firmly believe she’d have lasted a few more years without that and that dad’s addiction killed her. So I’m kind of out of patience.

One last thing. I feel terribly guilty for moving my dad from the apartment he shared with my mom in the city he loved, to this retirement place in the state where my sister and I live. So I don’t want to force him to move again, even though I think he'd prefer living closer to us once he was used to it. If he ever got used to it.

Thanks for letting me vent.


vegsister, that facility is so different from the one my Dad lived in. Smoking was not allowed in any of the rooms within the building. There was a smoking porch for those who smoke. And Housekeeping would come in once a week for cleaning and linen service for the apartment.

Doesn't the facility offer an extended menu of care features? Such as bath service for a monthly fee? Med-tech service for storing and giving Dad his pills for a monthly fee? it can get costly doing it that way.

And I am really surprised that the facility hasn't suggested that your Dad move to it's Assisted Living/Memory Care section. They said it was time for my Dad to move, and Dad didn't do any of the things that your Dad was doing. My Dad was just falling more and his memory wasn't as sharp.

With Assisted Living/Memory Care the apartment is a small studio apartment which has a dorm size refrigerator. Thus, your Dad would need to downsize. This size room is good for those with dementia, that way they can see all of their things in one room and not worry about someone stealing things from another room. And if smoking is allowed outside, probably Dad would be allowed to go out to the special smoking area, as long as he doesn't wander.

As for the hot plate. Forget that idea. Those are probably banned from the building.
There are companies who do a deep cleaning, typically after a basement has flooded or there has been fire damage, etc. They get the smells out! All textiles (curtains, bedspreads, carpet) will need to be thoroughly cleaned or discarded. Dad's room can be restored to fresh-smelling, but at a price.

Is there a smoking area outside and can Dad be convinced to use it? Obviously cleaning up his room to have him go back to his habits is not going to achieve much. But if he does most of his smoking elsewhere and the room smells OK, perhaps the cleaning staff can keep up with his messes.
Thanks for your answers! Freqflyer, I too have been surprised at how hands off this facility is...I guess "independent living" is really just that. We are paying for some of those extra services, but they don't do us much good when the staff refuse to come!

Jeannegibbs, I don't think dad can be convinced to use a designated outside smoking area...he has never been one to let little things like rules or other people's comfort get in the way of his habit. I suppose what we'll have to do is only allow him to smoke when he's with us, and confiscate his cigarettes when we drop him off. He'll be miserable without them but we don't have a lot of options!
The people who smoked in my mother's nh had to go to the nurses station to get their cigarettes. Some of them were given a fire-proof apron/bib to wear. (I suppose based on how careful they could expected to be.) At independent living this is probably not a common option, but I wonder if they could do it for a fee?

I am so grateful that my mother was weaned from her 75 year habit the year she lived with my sister. Our concern was mostly that it was a fire hazard, rather than health concerns. They switched her to e-cigs. It was a real hassle for my sister and BIL, but they stuck with it, kept the batteries charged, replaced cigs as necessary. Explained to Mom over and over again that she did not have to light it with a match. It wasn't easy, but by the time she needed a nursing home a year later she was no longer smoking. That made life in the nh one iota less complicated, and every iota counts!
I don't think you have a lot of options, given your father's attitudes. But I would seriously consider having a restoration cleaning service get the room smelling OK, and then rely on the in-house cleaners to keep up with his messes. Presumably if it starts out fresh and it is cleaned twice a week, it will take a long time to build up a nasty smell again.
The machines to which Jeanne refers are air scrubbers. They're large, heavy, and noisy machines. The ones I've seen in use have HEPA filters and do an extraordinary job of cleaning air. I don't know, however, how well they would handle smoke; it wasn't an issue for us.

Rental cost was $70/day. As Jeanne suggested, disaster cleanup services have them. A haz mat company would probably use them as well.

If you do rent that kind of machine for a day or two, you might want to consider getting a smaller air purifier/filter with a HEPA filter on a permanent basis to help clean the air afterward.

We bought them at HD or Lowe's; I don't remember which store. They do an effective job of circulating air in the immediate vicinity and making it more breathable. Again, I don't know how well they would handle smoky air.

There are also plants that absorb odors and help filter air. Research "plants, odor absorbing" or "plants, smoke absorbing." Again, I don't know how well they would filter heavy smoke, but it's worth considering.

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