A 95-YEAR-OLD World War II veteran with dementia has been refused respite care because he smokes.
Des Hanson, of Shearwater, has dementia, and is cared for by his 86-year-old wife, Doreen.
Mrs Hanson has been unable to get her husband into respite care for six hours a week at a dementia centre because of his eight cigarettes a day habit.
Meercroft Care, at Devonport, has a no smoking policy and cannot accommodate Mr Hanson due to staff health and safety.
Mrs Hanson said her husband, a former footballer and avid bike rider, started smoking while serving in the Royal Australian Navy when servicemen were provided with cigarettes as a reward.
``I can understand that you can't have people with dementia lighting cigarettes, but they [the centre] could control it,'' Mrs Hanson said.
``Surely they could set an area aside where they can smoke. I'm not a smoker, but they still have some rights,'' she said.
``He has smoked all this time and I just feel in his declining years that he should be able to do so.''
Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks said smoking was seen as a disability, and a failure to recognise this need could be discrimination.
Meercroft Care chief executive Wendy Shearer said a no on-site smoking policy prevented Mr Hanson from smoking while he was at their Munnew Day Centre.
She said the option of a staff member accompanying Mr Hanson off-site to have a cigarette was rejected.
``We can't expose our staff to cigarettes,'' Mrs Shearer said.
``We try to put measures in place to try and help . . . often the doctor and family will use patches.''
Ms Banks said a balance must be found between the smoker's right to smoke, and the right of workers to be free from health risk.
``There is a question of balancing his and [the carer's] rights to get respite care and to be placed somewhere where he can continue to smoke, with the rights of workers not to be exposed to second-hand smoke,'' she said.
Ms Banks said a centre might consider how they could facilitate smoking needs without exposing staff to risk.
Mrs Shearer said the facility was still working on the the issue to assist Mr Hanson, to provide his family respite.