My father has had cancer for about a year, diagnosed officially early this year. It’s cancer of the neck and jaw. He was/is a lifelong smoker and drinker. Nonetheless, he is my father, I love him, he’s been through a lot, a recent divorce, his mother died, very close brother died, all within a year. It’s been rough. Our family has been taking care of him. My wife and I have been doing the actual “taking care of”, everyone else, more so the paperwork part, insurance, making phone calls, etc. They do their parts at times, that’s really not what this is about.
Recently, as of a few days ago, my dad decided to bring his smoking habit to light and inside the house. We knew he has been, but he had been doing it in secret in the garage, where he had always done it. He’s currently getting treatments that require someone to be there most of the time. I’m not trying to paint my dad as a bad guy, he’s not, he would give the shirt off your back and he is the nicest guy in the world but he is set in his ways and it’s “his house”, and as a guy who used to smoke, I get it, but this is really upsetting my wife and killing my allergies. He says he doesn’t smoke a lot but he’s back to chain smoking, one after the other.
We’d ask him to go into the garage, but he has fallen twice because of steep stairs leading out, it’s too risky. I want to talk to him, but he’ll shrug it off and may quit for a day and then go back to his old ways. Am I being unreasonable. We take a lot of time to take care of him, not that I care to, but I feel that he should at least be more respectful to us if we are going to be there 12 hours a day, shouldn’t he? We are having our families over for Thanksgiving and she wants me to tell him not to smoke on Thanksgiving and i’m in the middle of this and I’m a mess…I’m a coward…
Do you have brothers or sisters? Perhaps they could pitch in on the being there part. I know you said that’s not a problem but you’re the one with the allergies that your Dad’s smoking is exacerbating. Other than this, all I can say is to help your Dad as much as you can without hurting yourself or your primary relationship with your wife.
I’m sure someone wiser than myself will be along soon, but I just want to tell you that we sometimes have really difficult things to face in life. From my experience, I would not recommend going the strong but silent route. You have resources in the network of people in your life - please use them for your support. FWIW you have my kind thoughts and willingness to help however I can.
Hopefully, fingers crossed, these treatments will be over soon, at the beginning of December. It’s not much longer. We should know the results of the chemo and radiation. There will still be taking care of afterwards. Unfortunately, while everyone was on board to help him and us through this, when it came down to it, no one was available. It’s been my wife and I. I’m not mad about it, I have a clear conscience and I know he appreciates it, but I’m disappointed in how people can be. I’ve altered every aspect of my life, and it’s just something I know I had to do, it wasn’t a question, but everyone else it was an absolute refusal, there was too much personal things on the line for them to drop anything.
I admire you and your wife tremendously for taking care of your father, as I have known quite a number of adult children of aging parents who are very rigid and inflexible and will not help their sibling(s) with their aging parents, especially with the “hands-on” caregiving. Getting back to your post, could someone perhaps take your father in a wheelchair to the garage or outside several times a day so that he can smoke? I am not saying smoking is a good thing at all, but since he enjoys it, it could be OK.
Where is he getting the cigs? It sounds like he’s got mobility issues. Is someone else providing them?
I know it must be maddening, watching him use cigarettes, which led to his cancer in the first place. He is very addicted, and going through something terrifying and terrible. They make him feel better, even if it seems completely crazy.
Would he be willing to work you and his dr(s) to switch to other things? E-cigs, nicotine patches, and gum, medications like Wellbutrin, there are a lot of ways he could transition off the cigs. He may not believe it now, but even if it seems “too late” there are still benefits to be gained from quitting.
It’s hard, but you should talk to him. Good luck.
You might also look into a caregivers support group. There’s a lot on your plate. Might help you to connect with some other folks in the same situation.
Try approaching it as a problem to solve with him, not about how he should behave. Of course he should not expose others to his smoke, but he is an addict. Cancer isn’t stopping him from smoking, so there probably is nothing you can say or do to get him to quit, and things that should be priorities are all taking a back seat to his addiction. Maybe he can isolate his smoking to a separate room with a door that closes well and an air filter. Maybe you can solve the steps problem. Or maybe an ecig will be acceptable to all. Good luck, it is a tough situation.