From the Winter 2000 issue of Hopes & Dreams, newsletter of the Illinois Chapter, Huntington's Disease Society of America.

Excerpted from A Caregiver's Handbook for Advanced-Stage Huntington's Disease by Jim Pollard.

Half jokingly and half seriously, physicians who are experts in caring for people with HD have referred to HD as "one of the smoking diseases." Certainly a very large portion of people with HD smoke cigarettes. People with HD often view it as "one of the last pleasures I have left." Smoking becomes symbolic of independence.

Smokers and their caregivers are faced with a number of problems. Some folks with HD have an altered sense of hot and cold. Their fingers are often burned lighting cigarettes or smoking them down to the butt. Impaired judgement can make them unaware of the danger of burns to clothing, ashtray fires, or lighting the cigarettes of friends who are themselves unsafe smokers. The movement disorder makes it unsafe to use and dispose of matches and lighters. Impulse control problems may drive them to take another person's lit cigarette right out of his mouth.

The unsafe smoker doesn't want to hear your suggestion to quit or your offer of more supervision. Caregivers are often caught in a power struggle. If the unsafe smoker has a lengthy spell of illness or hospitalization that precludes his smoking, use it as an opportunity to encourage him to cut down or quit smoking. Although this may put the caregiver in a patronizing position to the unsafe smoker, it may reduce or eliminate unnecessary risk of burns and fire.

Caregiver Tips Regarding Smoking

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Created: Jan. 2, 2001