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Choosing a Nursing Home in Fort Lauderdale? Consider the Smoking Policy

The decision place a loved one in an assisted living or nursing home facility is a difficult one with many factors to weigh. When choosing a nursing home in Fort Lauderdale, our South Florida injury attorneys advise not overlooking the facility’s smoking policy and enforcement.

Recently, The Sun Sentinel reported two nursing home resident injuries at a facility in Plantation following a fire that broke out after a resident was allegedly smoking in his bed. The man, in his 70s, was badly burned and had to be flown to a trauma center burn unit in Miami. His roommate suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation, as did a staff nurse, both treated at a closer Broward County hospital. Some 55 other patients in that wing of the facility had to be evacuated, though were allowed to return a short time later.

This may seem like a “freak accident,” but the reality is nursing home injuries stemming from failure to supervise smoking patients is an ongoing problem that has cropped up repeatedly in Florida and other states. It’s a factor you should especially consider when choosing a nursing home in Fort Lauderdale if your loved one is a smoker or uses electronic cigarettes or vaping devices.

Smoking Standards to Understand When Choosing a Nursing Home in Fort Lauderdale

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revisited smoking rules for nursing homes back in 2011, after the death of a patient in a smoking-related incident. The resident had gone outside of the building to smoke, but was left without supervision. She accidentally ignited her clothing. By the time staffers realized there was a problem, they were too late to save her, and she died as a result of her injuries. Further investigation revealed she was not given a smoking apron and her wheelchair was positioned in such a way it was blocking the closest fire extinguisher. (That case occurred in Virginia, and the family later won a wrongful death case against the facility, which was ordered to pay $1.45 million.)

The memo issued by CMS concluded guidelines for 42 CFR, Part 483.25(h), F323, involving adequate supervision for smoking residents, needed to be reemphasized. Nursing homes must ensure they are regularly assessing the abilities (and disabilities) of smoking residents to ascertain the need for supervision, and also limiting access to devices like lighters and matches at all times. Staffers must also make certain there are no oxygen tanks nearby. They must also ensure ashtrays made of non-combustible materials are provided and self-containing metal covers for these disposal features should be provided.

Another nursing home resident death of a 55-year-old man with a traumatic brain injury in California was attributed to unsupervised smoking was reported earlier this year

As Fort Lauderdale nursing home injury lawyers, we respect each resident’s right to autonomy in making the decision of whether to smoke or use tobacco or nicotine products. However, facilities need to err on the side caution in determining whether supervision is need to smoke. Although some nursing homes have taken a harder line on this by banning all smoking on site, 42 CFR, Part §483.15(b)(3), stipulates such action cannot be applied retroactively to existing residents. Residents admitted after such policy change have the right to be informed of the new policy.

(CMS has indicated it does not consider e-cigarettes to be “smoking devices,” as defined in these regulations because it does not pose the same risk of ignition.)

Nursing homes do have a challenge in weighing resident safety with resident rights in this regard, but given the serious nature of smoking-related accidents at nursing home, policies must be made with careful consideration and vigilant enforcement.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Man ‘badly burned’ in nursing home fire that hospitalized three, Nov. 2, 2018, By Doug Philips, The Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Sepsis, Bedsores Among Leading Examples of Wrongful Death Cases in Nursing Homes, Oct. 29, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Injury Lawyer Blog

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