Herb & Hospice: How Medical Marijuana Is Helping End-Of-Life Care
Excerpts: “As an administrator, I can tell you it’s not that we’re not allowed to talk about the use of cannabis, but there’s a fear that the federal funding [Medicare and Social Security] could be pulled, so we just don’t know what we can and can’t talk about.
Treewise offers private consultation to senior citizens who are curious about or need help using cannabis for various ailments. “State regulation requires that the facilities provide for the ‘holistic’ needs of their residents… There are several ways that facilities can [do that with cannabis medications]: they can assign a “caregiver” to visit the dispensary for their residents, [or] the dispensary can “deliver” to the facility. We are licensed as a patient and [a] grower, so we can provide any of these services,” explains Pool. Although they do not sell cannabis to patients, they assist in administering it, advising, and coordinating care and communication between patients and their caregivers.
Many hospice companies run into the same dilemmas as nursing facilities — patients who are anxious, in pain, and lacking an appetite who could potentially benefit from cannabis as medicine — and an inability to speak about cannabis for fear of reprimand or loss of federal Medicare and Social Security funding.
One of the families was very involved in the medication process. They really wanted to know what the medication was doing, how it was affecting them, and what the side effects are,” says T. “It was very apparent that many of the medications made [the patient] feel anxious, have hallucinations, or made them feel worse, so they needed other medications to help with those side effects. Then they started giving their loved one cannabis-based products. They tried tinctures and she didn’t like the taste, so they started giving her marijuana chocolates. It was really apparent that when she had the chocolates, she was happier, would laugh, make jokes, was a little more present, and had less pain.
I asked my mom (in hospice) if she was open to trying it so she could eat, and she was,” explained Lumis. Not only did the cannabis products help his mother’s appetite, but they seemed to relieve painful constipation caused by her prescription painkillers, while easing her anxiety and diminishing her pain. Due to a lack of research and resources to consult regarding proper dosages and strain types, James tested the products on himself before giving them to his mother.
“I think the odds of the federal government stepping in on an 85-year-old lady, who’s on death’s door getting some relief in a legal state from cannabis, are slim,” says Dr. Frankel.
“We have to all be a little braver just to do the right thing. You decide what’s best for that patient in that moment, and you do it. If you do anything short of that, you’re not practicing according to [medical] code.”