Residents of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City now get help from a new medical cannabis program. Residents say it’s often a good alternative to prescription drugs. The New York Times reported on nursing homes increasingly turning to medical cannabis for the elderly.
The staff of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale does not store or administer the medical marijuana. Residents buy it from a dispensary and keep it locked up in their rooms. They also administer it themselves. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, including New York.
Residents were concerned about the stigma
Most elderly residents were scared of taking cannabis at first because of the stigma attached to marijuana use.
One such a resident is Ruth Brunn, 98 years old. It took her some time, but she eventually started taking her green pills filled with cannabis oil. She says it doesn’t make her “high” or “stoned,” but it does make her feel much better. She suffers from neuropathy, causing thrusting pain in her shoulders, arms and hands and has to stay in her wheelchair.
Judging from what she says, we suspect that she is using CBD oil, so it’s hardly surprising it doesn’t make her high.
Many elderly Americans are embracing medical marijuana for relief from aches and pains. It offers an alternative to dangerous drugs such as morphine and opioids. For some, it has become a last resort, as no other medication can bring them relief.
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More studies give hope
Scientific evidence shows medical cannabis is effective in the treatment of many painful conditions such as neuropathic pain and muscle spasm in multiple sclerosis. Cannabis-based drugs are widely used to combat weight loss and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Studies are now investigating the effect of cannabis on degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.
Brian Kaskie, co-author of a recent study on the increasing use of medical marijuana by elderly Americans, wants us to consider whether the elderly using marijuana presents a public health crisis or a viable policy alternative.
It took years to develop a program
Hebrew Home at Riverdale took years to put the medical marijuana program together. It is run by RiverSpring Health chief executive, Daniel Reingold. He said he gave his dad medical marijuana tea in 1999 when he was dying of cancer. It eased his pain, helped him to eat, and made him laugh. He loved it.
When he asked permission from the board, there were no objections, although some board members worried about what it might do to the tea budget if medical cannabis for the elderly became popular!
The Washington Health Care Association has posted a medical marijuana policy on its website in response to requests from dozens of assisted living facilities.
Medical cannabis for the elderly cuts back on morphine
Ms. Brunn says the marijuana pills work so well for her she has been able to cut back on morphine prescribed to her for pain. The health insurance doesn’t cover the marijuana pills, but so far it has worked out. Her daughter lives in New Jersey but has managed to get it for her through friends and family.
Now that society is beginning to recognize cannabis as a medicine again, older adults will be among the biggest beneficiaries.