Long-Term Care Facilities and Medical Cannabis

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Caring for a loved one is an inevitable part of life for most people. Consider yourself blessed if you are able to care for an older family member. For families with children who need long-term care, it gets more challenging. In an attempt to improve our own daughter’s life, we simplify her medications and eliminate those with harmful side effects to avoid using multiple drugs to treat a condition. As a special-needs mom, I live with concern about how will my daughter be cared for after her parents have departed this life.

South Carolina will have a medical cannabis program in the near future. As Kira is only 13 years old now, I am confident that her quality of life will improve once she has access to medical cannabis in the state while she is living at home. However, when the time comes for her to enter into a group living situation, we do not want her quality life to diminish. The concern is that as marijuana is a schedule I drug federally, medical cannabis is not always available as an option for group home residents in states with medical programs.

But there are successful models, and one possible solution is the Hebrew Home of Riverdale in New York. The CEO of the organization, Dan Reingold, saw first-hand the relief provided to his father while suffering with terminal cancer and wanted to make it a priority for the home. But as the operator of Hebrew Home, he didn’t want residents denied access because they lived in a facility. His innovative approach circumvents limitations placed on facilities, but still ensures patients get access to medical cannabis lawfully under state law – without jeopardizing Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The home has remained compliant federally by not purchasing or storing cannabis products, providing lock boxes for patients to personally store their medicine, and having patients self-administer or hire a private caregiver to do so. The results for patients have been clear: sustained improvement in chronic pain severity, improvement in rigidity complaints, and a dramatic reductions in seizure activity.

The future of the medical cannabis program in the palmetto state is imminent and patients in nursing homes and care facilities should have access to medicine that helps them. We should consider lessons we can learn from Hebrew Home’s approach. We can give patients the tools they need for a better quality of life, and what more does a loved one really want?

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