Raising Awareness About Cannabis Compassionate Care

by | Nov 1, 2023 | Why You Should Get Your Medical Marijuana Card

terminal illness cannabis
When someone you love is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the emotional pain and grief felt by the patient, family, and friends is unfathomable. After understanding and acceptance, the next steps center around pain and symptom control and the mental health needs of the patient.

Some methods of providing relief and comfort are non-conventional. There is a departure from treatment plan concerns about the long-term effects of certain therapies, prescriptions, and alternative health options. Instead, the patient and loved ones seek out all legal methods that can moderate symptoms and bring comfort to the patient.

Before legalization, some families accessed cannabis from illicit sources, understanding that, in some cases, cannabis can help provide relief from pain, depression, anxiety, and inflammation. Cannabis can also stimulate appetite, which can help slow down or reduce weight loss associated with some terminal diseases.

If you live in a state that has legalized medical cannabis, it is an option to explore. In every state where medical cannabis is legal to use, terminally ill patients are qualified and eligible to get a medical card, as well as register a caregiver guardian to provide assistance.

Healthcare providers may not always endorse medical cannabis, and they are legally prohibited from administering it to patients. But suppose hospice care is provided at home instead of a healthcare facility. In that case, families can speak to cannabis healthcare providers to learn about each potential benefit that medical marijuana may provide.

How Can Medical Cannabis Improve the Quality of Life for Terminally Ill Patients?

Patients have the right to try anything that is legal to use, which may improve their quality of life as they navigate a terminal illness. The purpose of medical cannabis is not to cause impairment but to stimulate the endocannabinoid system, which can improve symptom control.

There are a variety of ways that doctor-supervised cannabis can be incorporated into compassionate care to help improve comfort and relieve stress.

1. May Restore Healthy Sleep Cycles

There are emotional and physiological reasons why people in compassionate care struggle to get good quality sleep. From a mental health perspective, coping with the five stages of grief and loss includes moving through denial, anger, resentment, sadness, and finally, acceptance.

Sleep disruption due to emotional stress, chronic pain, and other symptoms can exacerbate both the physical and mental health of the patient. Some Indica dominant strains can be effective when used in the evening to promote deep sleep and restorative rest.

2. Can Assist With Symptoms of Anxiety or Depression

The emotional impact of a terminal diagnosis causes a variety of physical and mental health symptoms. Anxiety and depression are common among patients receiving compassionate care. The full emotional weight of knowing that there is no cure or further treatments available can be emotionally traumatizing.

As a loving guardian, spouse, caregiver, or family member, you want to help ease the burden of anxiety and depression for the patient. Many patients may be prescribed psychotropic medications that can help, but sometimes, the medications for anxiety or depression may conflict with prescription NSAIDs and opioids. There are very few drugs that are contraindicated with cannabis, and it may be an effective alternative.

cannabis compassionate

3. May Help With Muscle Atrophy and Spasms

In stage IV cancer, it is common for patients to experience both muscular atrophy and muscle contractions or spasms. That may be due to the effect of cancer on the human immune system. Cancer can cause the immune system to release more cytokines than normal, which results in the loss of fat and muscle.

Muscle loss and sedentary bed rest can also cause atrophy, particularly in the extremities such as feet, legs, hands, and fingers. It is a painful condition that cannot be reversed, but cannabis may provide some pain relief and help reduce muscle spasms. Several clinical studies suggest THC and CBD combined may provide the best results.

4. Can Reduce Stomach Upset and Nausea

Nutrient absorption becomes a problem when an illness or disease causes symptoms of nausea and vomiting. First, if you are feeling nauseous, few foods or snacks are appealing; you simply don’t want to eat when you have an upset stomach. And what you do eat may come back up again.

Some common medications used for compassionate care may also cause nausea. There are a number of cannabis strains that have CBD content (to reduce inflammation) and combinations of minor cannabinoids and terpenes, which can help reduce nausea and may help with persistent vomiting.

5. May Help Stimulate Appetite

When you address the nausea and vomiting, many patients coping with a terminal disease may find that they are able to snack and eat again. However, the desire to eat can be suppressed by other medications and even by symptoms of anxiety or depression.

One option is to research strains that are known to cause “the munchies” and stimulate hunger. When cannabinoids activate the CB1 receptor, it triggers cravings and hunger. It can also make food taste more palatable for someone who experiences nausea and increase appetite.

6. Cannabis Can Improve Mood

Have you ever witnessed someone get really angry after consuming cannabis? If you have, it may be one for the record books because cannabinoids trigger the release of dopamine, which is the body’s primary “happiness hormone” that makes us feel good.

Anxiety and depressive symptoms are to be expected because of the psychological trauma of receiving a terminal diagnosis. Facing distressing symptoms, patients faced with a terminal disease will cycle through a variety of moods: anger, resentment, fear, and sorrow. Emotionally elevating strains can help patients take a break and temporary reprieve from feelings of spiritual and existential suffering

7. Helping Patients With Relaxation

The most important therapeutic role of cannabis may be its ability to calm sensory perceptions and help patients in palliative care rest and relax. Traditional medicinal treatments, like prescription medications, resolve singular issues; pain medications address pain, for example.

However, certain types of medical cannabis can dull uncomfortable symptoms and also provide relief from anxiety at the same time. Anyone who has cared for a loved one with a terminal illness may have an increased appreciation for the value of providing that calm and comfortable state.

One of the things that the medical community does not fully understand is how cannabis produces mild euphoria and aversive memory extinction. For a period of time, cannabis can push the mute button on worries and concerns, promoting patient well-being.

hospice care family

8. May Help Improve Communication Between Loved Ones

Time is precious, and even more so when someone you love is suffering from heightening sensory perceptions of pain and emotional duress. Cannabis use does not have disease-modifying effects, but the relief it can provide may make communication between loved ones more peaceful and pleasant.

Patients taking cannabis for medical use may feel calmer and more comfortable if some of the symptoms are better managed. For many terminally ill patients, that means more quality time spent with family and friends.

It is a legacy of love to share with someone as long as possible and to be able to communicate with those who care most about you. And to make the most of the moment-to-moment presence you may have with loved ones.

Can Terminally Ill Patients Apply for a Medical Card?

Patients who have a qualifying health condition may be eligible to apply for a medical cannabis card. Depending on the stage of disease progression, the patient may opt to register with a caregiver. A caregiver is a legal guardian, such as a spouse or loved one, who lives with the patient and provides daily support.

Once approved, a caregiver can purchase cannabis medicines from licensed dispensaries and receive care guidance from the patient’s medical marijuana physician, other specialists, and healthcare providers. In palliative care, the designated caregiver plays an important role, allowing compassionate access to medicinal cannabis products.

In lieu of palliative medicine and care provided at home, hospice providers may also be registered as cannabis caregivers for patients with terminal illnesses.

How Does a Family Member Apply to Be a Caregiver for Compassionate Care?

Suppose you are the individual living with someone who has a terminal illness and providing all caretaking duties. In that case, you may be eligible to become certified as the patient’s medical cannabis caregiver. First, the patient must be registered and receive a medical card. Then, you may follow the process to become the designated caregiver for that patient.

Caregivers must complete a criminal background check and provide proof that they are the legal guardian or designated support provider for the patient. The caregiver, if approved, will receive their own card, which allows them to purchase medical cannabis at licensed dispensaries for the patient.

If you are a designated caregiver, you may not purchase products for yourself or consume them. In states where patients are permitted to home-grow cannabis, caregivers are also authorized to cultivate on behalf of the patient in their care.

Does Medicare or Medicaid Cover Any Medical Cannabis Costs?

Unfortunately, until the U.S. federal government legalizes cannabis for medicinal use, the costs of cannabis healthcare are not covered by health insurance companies, either private or government-funded. That includes the cost of cannabis healthcare providers, annual renewal fees for medical cards, or medical cannabis supplies.

Can Patients Request a Higher Potency THC Product?

Some states with medical cannabis programs have a limit on the maximum THC potency that patients can buy. Many states, however, do not have a cap and allow patients to determine with their marijuana doctor which potency is best to address chronic symptoms.

You can always schedule an appointment with the marijuana doctor who certified you to discuss your symptoms. If a certain potency level is not providing the results you need, the physician can provide suggestions that may help. Or authorize an increased potency for your needs.

What Cannabis Products Are Suggested for Compassionate Care?

Smokable or vaporized cannabis products are generally not recommended for patients faced with a terminal disease. There are two reasons, including basic safety issues about incineration and devices, as well as the irritation and potential inflammation that inhalable cannabis products may cause when someone has other underlying medical conditions.

Edibles are the top-selling medical cannabis product nationwide for many reasons. They are easy to administer and provide a precision dose that can be recorded to track how effective certain strains and potencies are. One of the main benefits of edibles is that, while it can take up to 90 minutes for the effects to be felt, an average potency edible can provide up to seven (7) hours of relief.

For patients who have difficulty swallowing or digestive upset, cannabis tinctures are another alternative. Simply dispense the correct dose under the tongue, and allow it to pool there for 1-2 minutes before swallowing. The sublingual uptake method bypasses digestion and delivers the cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream, making tinctures almost as fast-acting as smokable medical cannabis products.


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