NYT: Medical Marijuana Raises Tough Questions for Nursing Homes

Medical marijuana
Any patient using medical marijuana breaks federal law. Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, which means the federal government considers it to have no medicinal value. Despite this, physicians in 14 states and the District of Columbia are allowed to recommend it. Legalization of medical marijuana is under consideration in eight additional states this year.
As election season and political discourse hit their peak this week and next, the fabulous New Old Age blog at the New York Times takes a look at a controversial subject from the perspective of seniors: Medical Marijuana. Feel free to post your thoughts below….-SP

Medical Marijuana Raises Tough Questions for Nursing Homes
By NUSHIN RASHIDIAN AND ALYSON MARTIN

Every night before bed, Norma Winkler, 82, opens a small jar of cannabis oil and measures out a quarter-teaspoon to mix with homemade applesauce. Soon after she eats it, she drifts off to sleep.

Ms. Winkler, who lives in Rhode Island, where medical marijuana is legal, has endured chronic back pain since a car accident fractured her skull and spine at age 15. Operations haven’t helped, and other medicines don’t touch the pain that can keep her up through the night.

“It’s really been a lifesaver for me,” Ms. Winkler said of her cannabis oil. “I used to walk into the walls sometimes. I was so tired because I didn’t sleep.”

Today, she’s healthy enough to remain independent in her home and to operate the jewelry factory she owns. But she worries about what will happen if she needs institutional care. Would a long-term care facility allow her to use this particular medicine?

“I wouldn’t go if they didn’t allow me to take it,” Ms. Winkler said.

When states began embracing medical marijuana, few anticipated this inevitable scenario: patients using it would grow older, and many would need to enter assisted living and nursing homes. The prospect has just begun to raise difficult questions for administrators and state regulators.

Any patient using medical marijuana breaks federal law. Marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, which means the federal government considers it to have no medicinal value. Despite this, physicians in 14 states and the District of Columbia are allowed to recommend it. Legalization of medical marijuana is under consideration in eight additional states this year.

Though firm numbers are difficult to come by, experts say elderly patients like Ms. Winkler increasingly use medical marijuana to ease their pain. But many care facilities in which they reside, or will reside, receive federal funding through Medicare and indirectly through Medicaid.

Many facility administrators wonder how they can comply with federal law and preserve their reimbursements and at the same time permit residents to medicate with marijuana. At an American Health Care Association conference in early October, Fred Miles, a Colorado lawyer who represents health care providers, gave a presentation called “Medical Marijuana — Are Nursing Homes Going to Pot?”

The issue is badly in need of federal clarification, he said.

Read the whole article here at the New Old Age blog.

Our 2010 Committment to You: From Executive Director Joyce Lauck

The beginning of 2010 is a great time to reflect on the past decade. We at AGE are proud to look back at the work accomplished- the thousands of seniors and caregivers helped and supported and new programs established in our community.

More importantly – we look forward to this next decade and what we will strive to accomplish. In a time when many non profits are facing cuts to programs AGE is committed to deepening our programs, expanding to help new clients and meeting challenges with creative solutions. The need is growing and we can not afford to slow down just as more people need our services.

As a commitment to you and the Central Texas Community I want to share our 2010 goals with you and thank those who have helped us.

• Bring on an established specialist as Deputy Director to ensure we create stronger services for our current and future clients.
• Commit that any senior or caregiver who calls is able to share their story and receive the information, support and guidance they need to meet the challenges of aging and caregiving.
• Strengthen our partnerships with other agencies to ensure that the needs of every client are met.
• Expand services in Williamson County by 20% to meet the overwhelming community demand, by upgrading to a larger facility in Spring 2010.
• Show caregivers the tools they need to give the highest quality of care to their vulnerable loved ones.

Thank you for standing with us to making a difference in lives of older adults throughout central Texas.

Help us show appreciation to our strongest supporters in 2009 as listed below.
Without the support of the Community we would be unable to grow and meet the challenges of aging.

Best Wishes in the New Year

Joyce Lauck
Executive Director
jalauck@ageofaustin.org

    Thank you to our 2009 Major Corporate and Foundation Supporters

St. David’s Foundation
United Way Capital Area

Austin American-Statesman, Season for Caring
Austin Community Foundation
Austin Junior Forum
City of Austin- GTOPS
H-E-B
Junior League of Austin
Lola Wright Foundation
Roy F and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation
Physicians Health Choice
Theodore P Davis Foundation
Topfer Family Foundation
Donald D. Hammill Foundation
Veritas Foundation

AMERIGROUP
Balance 360
Brookdale SeniorLiving
Care-Connect
Consumer Cellular
Gracy Woods
Harden Healthcare
LCRA
Practical Care Continuum
Proper Care
Senior Living Choices
Seton Family of Hospitals
Texas Assurance Care
Texas Senior Guide
Texas State Securities Board

Benefits for Seniors * Cook-Walden/Dignity Memorial * Heavenly Caregivers * King Cole, Bank of America * Longhorn Village * New Life Styles, Inc * New York Life
Save Their Story * Starlite Caregivers * Strengthmobile