Can the elderly take their legal cannabis to the long-term care facility / Nursing homes?

Published Aug 7, 2019 12:18 p.m. ET
iStock / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

As we age, cannabis use for the elderly needs to be considered. Not specifically to the use of medical marijuana, but also recreational and if it can be used in their living spaces. The elderly population is requiring housing; Seniors need to access assisted living help. This, for some seniors, can be problematic as their health and legal, medical marijuana use are about to change for some elderly who will be moving into specific long-term care residency. Many elderly have taken daily medication prescribed by their physician for years, which includes cannabis. What happens now? This is the question being asked by the patients and the family when moving from home becomes necessary?

Currently, some long-term care facilities pose a problem for the elderly who uses medical marijuana or marijuana for recreational use.

Although cannabis use is legal throughout Canada, there are restrictions on where it can be used. Long-term care falls into one of those categories of not being a place for smoking marijuana or other means of including cannabis in daily medication regimes.

The nurses who work at these facilities are legally able to provide the residents access to their cannabis medication. They are also legally able to assist patients who are not able to administer medical marijuana for themselves. So, this is not an issue when cannabis is prescribed for the patients at these homes. However, nurses can only administer medical cannabis if the facility is on board with issues involving marijuana.

The policies for long-term or residential care facilities are careful to state what the rules and regulations around marijuana are for their particular property or residence.

The elderly are a large part of the vulnerable sector of society. The rights to have medication choices should be no different from for the elderly that are still capable of living in their private homes.

Long-term care staff is being trained for the effects of cannabis use. Many of the residents residing in long-term care are taking medication that needs to be monitored for interactions that may occur with the introduction of medical marijuana.

The use of medical marijuana is on the rise with the elderly and is being used for treatments like:

• Pain
• Anti-inflammatory issues
• Insomnia
• Nausea
• Anxiety

All these conditions are treated with medications that have side-effects, however, CBD is often prescribed for those conditions that do not present with any ill wanted effects.

More elderly are using their right to choose medical marijuana to treat medical conditions they have. The issue of being able to live in a long-term facility that respects those choices is becoming a problem.

There are many forms of administering medical marijuana that the resident in long-term care can utilize for their medical care:

1. Smoking is not an acceptable mean of administering medical marijuana in the long-term facility or any hospital, setting, quite frankly, there are not many places that allow smoking of any kind. However, vaping is often used as an alternative and provides almost immediate aid for the patient.

2. Marijuana edibles are a perfect way for the patient/resident to have their medical marijuana administered. Many elderly find this a safe and reliable mean to deliver their medicine. Dosing is accurate and very discreet when using marijuana edibles for medications.

The elderly do not only have the right to use cannabis, but perhaps that right needs to be extended to using cannabis where they are living. Currently, private residences allow the smoking or vaping of medical marijuana. Unfortunately, this does not include long-term care or retirement homes. What about the senior whose home is at one of these facilities?

If you are looking at a move to a long-term facility, make sure that you or your family check on the policy and procedures of cannabis use for the facility that you choose.

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