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We just got guardianship of my mother in law. It's been a long and frustrating process. She currently lives with a "friend" about an hour away. He told me today that she is out of cigarettes and since I'm her guardian, I need to be the one purchasing more. She shouldn't be smoking. Not only because it's bad for her, but because her dementia makes her smoking dangerous. I just ignored the request for cigarettes at the moment, but I know I will have to confront him about it eventually. Am I "in the right" to tell him that I will not purchase her cigarettes, legally speaking? Our end goal is to get her into a living facility, but that could take a while. We can't afford one for her and we don't think she can afford one on her disability. Until then, I am a little nervous that he will accuse us of neglect.

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It's a matter of $$$, not a matter of whether you have the right to tell your MIL she should or should not be smoking, which by the way is still legal. If a family member took guardianship over me and told me what I could or could not do, like smoke, or eat chocolate or whatever, I'd have a screaming fit he or she would not soon forget.

I don't think you should be worried about 'legal neglect' but about doing what's best for your MIL, and that's not leaving her high and dry with a raging nicotine addiction in force and no idea why she's feeling so poorly and can't have a smoke! Dementia is bad enough without taking away what may be one of her true comforts. If she is on board to quit, at least get her a nicotine patch or an e-cig or something to help ease the horrible withdrawal associated with quitting nicotine cold turkey.

People who love to say ABSOLUTELY NOT to buying an elder their drug of choice must never have had a bad habit themselves that they had a very hard time breaking. Otherwise, that sort of advice would not be handed out so flippantly.

I would imagine your MILs roommate keeps an eye on her to make sure she's using caution when smoking and isn't likely to burn their house down. If it were me, I'd have a chat with the roommate about it, and then buy her some cigarettes or other devices if she's agreeable to quitting.

Good luck.
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cherokeegrrl54 May 24, 2021
Hey Lealonnie…your post is spot on. My soon to be (in a week) 88 yr old mom does me this way. I follow a different spiritual path than she does. Without going into long details, i always knew i was different when it came to staring up at the beautiful full moon , fascinated me. Anyhow, this is what she does in a small group of friends. A friend of hers says im praying for you, mom says a few things and i shldnt be smoking. “Ive nvr smoked or drank”. That particular day she pushed me past my limit so i looked her squarely in the eyes right in front of her friends and said, “well mother i guess now i know how ive been such a disappointment to you all my life Oh, and i guess none of us are as perfect as you are!” And i turned around and walked off. There isnt any dementia or anything like that involved here. Just some normal aging things. Oh and yesterday she said to me, you need to take care of your health issues(i need a total knee replacement) bcaus you have to take care of me til i die. I just let that go…..i cant hear on my left ear….in the grand scheme of things, i moved back to Florida to help her if she needed it. My sister wont be of any help. Shes years too far into her pity party ….so i suck it up and as my military daughter says, Drive on!!). Sorry so long, i just needed someone to talk to this morning. Have to go see a cardiologist today(frst appt) and i dont want to go.
thank you, Lealonnie for reading this. I always look forward to your posts. Many blessings to you 💓💕
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If the friend doesn't mind her smoking in his house, why should you? Yes of course it's unhealthy, might be dangerous with her dementia, but there is probably little that she enjoys at this point, so why not just let her enjoy?
Smoking is a drug addiction, and with any addiction, it's not easy to quit "cold turkey." You may just create a monster if you take them away.

Now don't get me wrong, I have never smoked, and don't like anything about smoking, but I think there comes a point when we as caregivers have to pick our battles wisely. I'm just not sure this is one battle I would chose to fight at this time.
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Helping77 May 27, 2021
I don't disagree they should enjoy what little they have left but I'm sorry I would NEVER allow smoking if nothing else because I'm (possibly) allergic to it. I spend maybe 5 minutes with my mom's cousin who smokes and I will cough for probably an hour. If it was like chocolate she's hurting herself so be it but I'm sorry, especially if you are young enough to still have kids in the house... basically you're saying someone should let a person kill themselves, you and possibly your family because of their age? You not hearing yourself?
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The facility where my relative lives does not permit smoking anywhere on their property. I think most places are like that now. Tapering off with the patch ahead of time could help a lot.
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At my brother's assisted living facility there were quire a few smokers. They had an outdoor lounge outside the communal dining room. I would certainly discuss smoking cessation with my MIL, but no, I would not forbid her to smoke after a lifelong habit. As to it being "bad" for her after nearly a lifelong (I am guessing) habit, what real benefit is there in another year of life in an assisted living. In fact, when my bro and I years ago visited my Mom in her elder community he said "You know, if you told me that one cigarette would take a month of life off my span, I would start smoking today". We laughed, but honestly, talk about the "land of loss". One loss after another.
You are correct when you say it presents a risk. So does crossing the street. But I am loathe to rob an elder of yet one more thing. I recall when I quit smoking those many decades ago. I was so depressed I honestly wondered if life was worth living without that cigarette with my a.m. coffee. How much closer she must be to that very thought.
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disgustedtoo May 27, 2021
If she needs to move to MC or NH (approved guardianship implies she probably isn't AL bound), it would be better to get her off the butts as it won't be allowed there. AL, outside might be okay, but if she isn't going to AL, she will need to be off them (also OP comment says she WAS off them, this "friend" got her back on them!)

The bigger issue is expecting OP to pay for the butts. NO NO NO NO NO, not with her own money. A 3rd party guardian would never be expected to expend their own money to buy things, neither should a family member who is appointed.

The bigger issue is finding another place for her, until they can get her in a facility. A place that has NO smokers, and get her off them.
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The hospital transitioned her off of cigarettes because they knew that being forced to quit cold turkey is unacceptable.

Send a small allowance for cigarettes before you are forced to take her into your home.

If you think it is rough now, have this person in your home and you will know what rough feels like.
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Forcing someone to quit cold turkey is cruel.

Buy her cigarettes but, don't buy enough for all her friends.

What will you do if the friend decides that he isn't going to take care of her because she is going through withdrawals and is a bear to deal with? You will be responsible for her and if you can't get her into a facility pronto, what is your plan?

I wouldn't risk losing the best thing you have going for you because you now have the power. It could back fire and you will be so sorry that you now have to take care of her or it is neglect by a guardian and that is no joke.
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rovana May 24, 2021
If the OP is correct that they really cannot afford cigarettes for MIL and food for the family, I don't think it is right to have to spend one's own money (not the person's under guardianship) in this kind of situation. Feeding the kids should come first. Are there addiction treatment programs that might help in this case?
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I would not recommend cutting off an addict without a transition plan. You can discuss with her doctor what the alternatives are and find out whether they are feasible, e.g., will the friend apply a patch or will you need to hire a caregiver to do it. Most likely, transitioning her to alternative delivery systems and tapering down will probably work better once she moves to a facility.

Realistically, if she has funds to pay in the short term, you are probably better off keeping her supplied until you can transition her.

Nicotine withdrawal is not a pretty sight. When this happened with a family member, I observed decreased cognitive function, tremors, and a desperate desire for the cigarettes. Desperate people do desperate things.

If you decide to just cut her off, you should at least have a plan to use any resulting crisis to get her into an ER or police-to-psychiatric environment and then into the system for placement during spend down and on to Medicaid.
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cherokeegrrl54 May 24, 2021
Words of wisdom….thank you
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Ive read all the posts so far. I have some questions. You state this is your MIL youre taking care of? Where is your husband in all this? Why is he not handling these situations? After all, it IS his mother, right? And please accept my apology if there is a reason your spouse is not able to handle this. I just dont get why we women are the “go to” when a spouses parents need help. In Nancy Reagans words, Just Say NO!
Sent with love and care for you…..
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Buy her the cigarettes*. Nothing has changed in her daily living circumstances that justifies your enforcing a ban; and you are ignoring the real distress that sudden cessation will cause a lifelong smoker.

If you wish, you can insist on smoke alarms and/or that she cannot be left unattended with matches or a lighter.

If I had my way, I'd also provide some sort of protective apron - a couple of weeks ago my ninety something year old client denied all knowledge of how the large circular hole with the singed edges could possibly have appeared in her skirt. I felt quite faint on her behalf.

* With her money, obviously. Not your own.
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disgustedtoo May 27, 2021
I think this is where the real problem lies. It isn't the smoking (although it would be better if she didn't, esp if they plan to move her to a facility such as MC or NH) that OP is trying to ban. The question is whether OP is required to spend her own money to buy said butts. The answer is NO.
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You and your spouse have guardianship over your MIL. That means both of you have full access to whatever money or assets she has and you make her decisions.
I'd say you and your spouse really dodged the bullet if the daily care of your MIL with dementia is not put on you. You're very lucky she's got a 'friend' who's doing it for you.
Get you MIL as many cigarettes as she wants. Pay for them out of her money which you have legal access to. Try to put yourself in her caregiver's shoes for a minute. You certainly should be nervous that refusing her might look like neglect. It is neglect if her guardians will not spend her money to get cigarettes for a person who is a lifelong smoker.
She's probably going nuts from nicotine withdraw and that's making her caregiver's job a lot harder. Don't make it too on him or he might just drop her off at her guardian's house. You.
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disgustedtoo May 27, 2021
Based on a long post from OP, MIL was OFF the butts. Said "friend" got her back on them, to have someone to smoke with. He is responsible for this dilemma.

I would NOT spend a dime of my own money to buy her butts (this is what she's being told to do.) No idea what MIL's income is or what it's used for - one could assume it is minimal SS and it is needed for housing and food.

I would want her OUT of that friend's place ASAP and then get her off the butts again. If long term facility isn't available, find a respite place or a care home for the interim and get her out of the smoking den!
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