A fairly common occurrence at nursing homes is when a resident cigarette smoker suffers a cigarette burn to some part of their body. When a cigarette burn happens, it means that the resident was not adequately supervised. Some residents are more at risk than others. Someone who is cognitively impaired, for example, is at greater risk for injury from cigarette burns because they have poor safety awareness.
Facilities are supposed to develop policies, whereby they have the smokers go out on a smoke break at a designated time with a staff who attend and supervise them. A staff member is the one who keeps possession of the cigarettes, lights the cigarette for the resident, and then they usually put the resident in an apron that’s fireproof.
By law and regulation, they are supposed to supervise the resident for the entire time during that smoke break. Then they must collect the physical cigarette butt as a failsafe way to prevent fire and to make sure that a cigarette hasn’t accidentally fallen on a resident’s clothes. One cigarette out, one cigarette butt in – a procedure that keeps residents safe.
It doesn’t always happen that way. Issues happen when a facility has a caregiver who doesn’t supervise the entire time, or who is negligent in not putting that apron on. And so, what happens is the resident is left unattended. If someone is in a wheelchair and a cigarette falls out of their mouth and lands on their clothes and causes all kinds of serious severe burns on that resident’s body, that would be a case of neglect. The facility left a resident unattended and in an unsafe situation or didn’t use adequate protective gear.
It can get even worse if a cigarette butt lands and somehow causes a building to catch on fire. Either way, it goes back to that ‘why’ question. Why did that caregiver have to leave? Typically, it’s because a facility is understaffed, and the staff is being pulled in too many directions. If a corporation decides to operate on a very lean budget because they want to improve their profits at the expense of providing safe good care for the residents, their understaffing will result in the deprivation of care and supervision, which is a form of neglect.