Updated on September 10, 2018.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
It’s always the people you’d least expect to use a product who would benefit the most from it. Cannabis and the elderly are a perfect example of this. Seniors often battle many symptoms medical marijuana can treat, such as pain and inflammation. And since many people are not diagnosed with chronic illnesses until later in life, senior citizens with these diagnoses can also benefit from the medicinal powers of the cannabis plant.
Whether it’s to treat symptoms of a chronic condition, side effects of treatment for that condition or just plain old aches and pains from aging, medical marijuana is beneficial for older people. In this article, we’ll discuss the use of medical marijuana in three different settings where seniors can reside:
Retirement Homes: Retirement homes are typically intended for active seniors who are 65 and older.
Assisted Living Homes: Assisted living homes house senior adults who can live independently but may need support with medication management, transportation and meals.
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes are intended for people who need assistance getting in and out of bed, bathing and dressing.
Cannabis has a place in all three of these settings and can benefit those who live there in similar and unique ways.
The Legality of Medical Marijuana and Nursing Homes
In states where medical cannabis is legal, any residents at nursing, retirement or assisted living homes who have a legitimate prescription for marijuana can legally use the substance at these facilities.
For example, in Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health allows staff members at care facilities to act as caregivers for medical marijuana patients. This means staff members could purchase the medicine for residents, prepare their medication as instructed by a medical professional, administer it if needed and transport residents to and from dispensaries if required. It’s up to individual facilities to decide if they will take advantage of this option and allow cannabis use at their establishment.
Benefits of Medical Marijuana and Retirement Homes
Senior citizens get the same benefits from using marijuana as anyone else would. Reduced pain and inflammation, improved mood and mental state, increased appetite — the list goes on. The medicine has even been proven to alleviate several ailments associated with old age. Joint pain, appetite loss, neuropathic pain, muscle wasting and cognitive illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are just a few symptoms and conditions common among older people that cannabis can effectively treat.
But, in addition to the general perks of cannabis use, there are several advantages unique to allowing seniors and elderly patients to use cannabis products within the walls of their living quarters. These include:
Increased Access: By enabling patients to use their medicine in what is undoubtedly their homes, it’s easier for them to access it. Plus, they don’t have to risk venturing out on their own to pick up their medicine when a staff member can do it for them, or at least drive them to the dispensary.
Safety and Security: When residents can safely and legally use their medicine at their living facilities, they can be sure they’ll get the treatment they need to feel better. Plus, they can know they’re using marijuana while being surrounded by caring nurses if they ever have an adverse reaction.
Controlled Dosages:Since the nurses will be managing residents’ cannabis use just like any other medication they may take, they won’t have to worry about accidentally taking too much. The facility’s staff members will be trained on how to follow the doctor’s prescription or recommendation and give residents proper dosages of the right strains at the right time of day.
Challenges of Allowing Marijuana in Senior Living Facilities
The biggest challenge when it comes to normalizing cannabis use in these facilities is that smoking indoors is a hazard. Other residents may complain about the smell, too. Even if a patient has a prescription or recommendation that instructs them to smoke, the staff of a home that permits marijuana use would likely still require patients to smoke their medicine outside. And since residents may or may not be allowed out at certain hours depending on the facility, this could contradict a patient’s treatment regimen.
There are several ways to get around these challenges. The first option is to have patients who prefer inhalation as their method of ingestion switch to a vaporizer. These tools heat the marijuana flower up rather than burn it, so water vapor is inhaled instead of smoke. However, this option does not take care of the smell problem.
A second and popular choice among elderly patients and senior citizens are edibles. From brownies and cookies to gummies and candies or hot teas and coffee, there are so many options for how to take cannabis orally. If edible snacks or drinks aren’t for you, there are also tinctures and pills or capsules. Tinctures are concentrated marijuana oils you drop on your tongue. Pills and capsules are precisely what they sound like — cannabis-infused pills like any other medication.
Edible choices are popular not only because they avoid the issues of smoke and smell, but also because eating and taking pills are everyday actions that even people with debilitating diseases can perform. Additionally, for residents who never smoked before in their life, even cigarettes or cigars, it could be difficult to adjust to an inhalation method.
Learn More About Medical Marijuana and Assisted Living Homes
Interested in learning more about medical marijuana use and dosing in retirement, assisted living and nursing homes? We can help with that. At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we always provide the latest information and trends relating to medical marijuana. Check our blog for updates regarding the status of cannabis use in senior living facilities throughout the country and world.
Before your loved one can take advantage of marijuana options at their living facility, they must see a cannabis doctor for an examination and receive a medical card. Search our database to find a reputable doctor and friendly dispensary staff near you. You can even book your relative’s evaluation appointment with most practices directly on our site. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our team for further assistance.