If you’re like many who use cannabis products as part of a healthy lifestyle, you know exactly why you use it and exactly what you get out of it.
And some of those things may be just what your aging parents are looking for, too!
So how do you talk to your parents about what cannabis can do for them when oftentimes, their own medical doctors won’t discuss it?
Let’s face it: the last time we had a discussion about cannabis with our parents, the conversation was completely upside down from today’s version!
At Compassionate Care By Design, we’ve consulted with and helped many seniors with their cannabis use. Here are some tips that may make it easier for you to help your parents understand cannabis and move beyond the stigma.
Understanding: Senior’s Top Concerns
It’s not a scientific study, but in our conversations about cannabis with seniors, these questions are the ones we most often hear:
• Do I have to smoke it?
• Will I get high off it?
• Can I take it with other medications?
• How will I feel when I take it?
• Will it work?
• Are there side effects?
• What if my doctor isn’t on board?
• Does insurance cover it?
• What about other health conditions I may have?
Let’s look briefly at some answers that have helped us in our conversations with our senior patients!
- SMOKING: No, you do not have to smoke it (this is a big deal for seniors who have never smoked, or are former cigarette smokers who want to avoid a relapse!). Medical cannabis is available in many forms, called “modalities”, for those who prefer to avoid smoking or even inhaling a vapor-based product. Some ways to take medical cannabis fit right in with seniors’ lifestyles, like sweet treats (chocolates, fudge, and mints) to soothing comforts like teas and other brewed beverages, lotions, creams, and salves.
- GETTING HIGH: If an intoxicated feeling isn’t what you’re looking for, there are plenty of options that won’t leave you feeling loopy (again, a big deal with seniors, who may be experiencing cognitive decline or balance problems and don’t want to add to it). Even in products that contain THC – the cannabinoid responsible for feelings of intoxication – the way you choose to take medical cannabis can prevent intoxication all together. There are also products with very low (less than .3%) THC or no THC at all, which many seniors take on a regular basis without any intoxicating effects.
- OTHER MEDICATIONS: Because cannabis is a natural product, it is recognized and processed by the body first. So it may interfere with the way prescription drugs get processed in the body. And there are certain prescription medications, particularly for heart conditions, which will require the advice of a medical professional before using cannabis. We recommend that all our patients get their medical doctors involved about their decision to try medical cannabis, and discuss any current prescription medications they are on in the discussion about medical cannabis.
- HOW IT FEELS: Most senior patients do not report any big changes in how they feel when first taking medical cannabis, unless they are looking for an intoxicating effect. Medical cannabis works in conjunction with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system (kind of like an immune system, only it regulates different things), so overall changes typically take time to notice. We encourage all our patients to take notes on a daily basis, because the effects of medical cannabis aren’t instant like taking an aspirin, so patterns of improvement (or, more typically, easing of symptoms) are important to overall health management.
- EFFECTIVENESS: Medical cannabis works differently than prescription drugs, so the results will usually take longer to notice. Cannabis seeks to address underlying imbalances in the endocannabinoid system, rather than treating specific symptoms. Results can be gradual and are typically noticed as a feeling of overall improvement within the first month or so. Again, keeping a daily written record is a good way to track progress.
- SIDE EFFECTS: Because medical cannabis is a natural product, the body recognizes it and processes it naturally. As a result, unwanted side effects are very few and rare, while positive side effects (while they may take some time to appear fully) are far more common. People have reported improvements in things they did not identify as primary problems until medical cannabis started to rebalance the whole endocannabinoid system, and improved other areas that weren’t necessarily primary concerns.
- MY DOCTOR: Some medical doctors are very open to medicinal cannabis, some aren’t, others are in between. This is largely because there are no large scale clinical trials (a typical process for getting prescription drugs to market) and no recognition by the United States Food and Drug Administration of cannabis as medicine, with one exception of Epidiolex®, a cannabis-based prescription to treat certain types of seizures in children. In addition, nothing about cannabis was taught when most doctors were going through medical school, so there is a general lack of familiarity with it. We do have medical doctors you can talk with if your own doctor is unfamiliar with medical cannabis.
- INSURANCE: Medical cannabis is not federally recognized by the FDA, so there’s no incentive for insurance companies to recognize it as a medical necessity at this time. As understanding and additional studies continue to influence perceptions, we are hopeful this will change in the future. Check with your State’s rules to see if the cost of your medication can be deducted as non-reimbursed medical expense on your State taxes.
- OTHER CONDITIONS: Your health is our primary concern. We provide information about medical cannabis so you can decide what’s best for you, and we strongly encourage you to speak with your own medical doctor about any and all decisions you make about your health, including the decision to take medical cannabis. You should ask specifically about any medical condition and prescriptions for which your doctor is currently treating you.
So there you have it … some ways to help your aging parents understand medical cannabis, how to overcome some objections they may have about the idea of it, and a pretty good idea about where to bring them if you want to help them start living their best lives!
We do encourage our patients who have a senior referral to let us know, and look forward to answering any questions you or your senior parent has about medical cannabis soon!
Have you tried to talk to your parents about medical cannabis? What obstacles, concerns, or objections did you experience? What positive things happened as a result of your conversations? What would you like to see as a tool to help explain medical cannabis to the seniors in your life? We’d love to hear from you.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we might use your feedback in a future story!
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