Ask 83-year old Rose Durette what she thinks about medicinal cannabis, and with a smile on her face, she’ll tell you, “I feel great because I have no pain!” Durette takes cannabis oil four times a day and prefers to have it mixed with a bit of applesauce “because it tastes better that way.”

Durette has lived at Trillium Villa Nursing Home in Sarnia since September 2015. During her time there, her existing mobility problems worsened due to increased pain. She was rarely able to leave the nursing home and was very uncomfortable sitting in her wheelchair. Visiting with family was also difficult as she was heavily sedated from the narcotics being used to control her pain. When approached with the opportunity to try medical cannabis, Durette and her family immediately agreed, in the hopes it could improve her quality of life and help with her pain.

Seniors’ changing attitudes

Durette is now able to use a sit-to-stand lift, allowing her to participate in daily activities for the first time in more than a year. This summer she participated in a picnic lunch with fellow residents — something that was simply not possible before her decision to try medical cannabis.

After meeting with Dr. Blake Pearson — the founder of Greenly Health, which specializes in providing cannabinoid therapy to seniors living in long-term care — Trillium Villa decided to make medicinal cannabis available to their residents.

“Dr. Pearson educated us on how medical cannabis would benefit our resident population,” recalls Kim Van Dam, the Administrator at Trillium Villa. “Once we started to look at potential outcomes we agreed that we wanted to offer this service to our residents.”

A recognized expert in the field of cannabinoid medicine, Dr. Pearson accepts referrals from across Ontario at his Sarnia clinic and also offers virtual appointments for people living out of town or with mobility issues. This allows him to consult with patients and administration in long-term care homes across the province. Dr. Pearson is also the founder of Greenly Medical Consulting, which provides educational services to practitioners, allied health professionals and the public in order to improve patient access and further understand the potential of cannabinoid medicine in the treatment of complex health conditions.

Medical cannabis’ unique abilities

“Cannabinoid medicine is a good option for seniors because it’s what we call a multi-modal medicine,” explains Dr. Pearson. “It can be used to treat several different conditions at once, allowing doctors to reduce polypharmacy, which is a big issue in long-term care.”

According to the latest research from the Canadian Institute of Health Information, seniors living in long-term care are twice as likely to be on opioid medications and three times as likely to be on anti-depressants than others their age. Additionally, seniors on 10 or more medications are five times as likely to be hospitalized due to an adverse drug reaction. “This data speaks for itself,” says Dr. Pearson. “It was a primary driver behind our efforts to explore safe, effective alternative therapies for seniors living in long-term care.”

Kelly Batson, Manager of Patient Care at Trillium Villa, was instrumental in setting up the medicinal cannabis program, collecting the data required to measure outcomes and support registered nurses who were administering the cannabis oil. As Batson approached more residents and families about Dr. Pearson’s cannabis therapies, the support and eagerness to participate became overwhelming.

“Resident outcomes have been remarkable in terms of quality of life and pain management,” says Van Dam. “Medical cannabis can be of great benefit to seniors. That’s why it’s so important that we address barriers to access, such as integrating the process for ordering, storing and administering medical cannabis with Trillium Villa’s existing medication management processes and the fact that it’s not covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit program.”

Durette’s family can vouch for the benefits of providing seniors with medicinal cannabis. They note that she is so much happier now that she’s not in pain. They also find that they’ve enjoyed better visits with her because she is vibrant and clearer of mind when they’re together.

“I think people should try it if they can,” says Durette. “I feel much better.”

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