Hospice and Cannabis, an End-of-Life Choice.
The word hospice can be overwhelming for many. As an RN, I see hospice care as the last step in providing someone with the best quality of life at the end of their earthly journey. My grandpa, uncle, and dad benefited from this service, and it was beautiful. When my husband neared the end of his glioblastoma brain cancer journey last year, I didn’t hesitate to call a hospice team. Why? I’m a nurse, so I knew he’d receive services that would allow him to stay at home. Because I’m a cannabis nurse, I know the benefits of medical marijuana. It was the right decision.
I had a unique perspective as a cannabis nurse and a wife doing all she could to help her husband in his final days. Bill had a type of brain cancer that is always terminal. Still, we started cannabis early in the journey. Thankfully, he lived 33 monthsfrom his diagnosis and was only debilitated for three of them. That is HUGE!
During those last months, he went from walking independently to needing a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair. In the end, he was confined to a bed. He went from no pain to excruciating pain on his left side, and seizures were present in the final days. That’s when cannabis took center stage. To the amazement of the hospice team, who brought ‘“comfort meds” for pain, anxiety, seizures, and sleep, we were able to use various cannabinoids that provided for all his needs. He could stay awake and engage with friends and family who came to visit. When it was time to sleep, he slept like a baby. The end was still the end, and no one in our family will ever forget that loss and pain, but we all know he had the best quality of life we could provide.
As a cannabis nurse, I value evidence-based and clinical-based or “real world” benefits. Here are benefits we see with medical marijuana and hospice care:
Pain relief – Cannabis connects with receptors that can help with severe pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.
Relief of other symptoms– Cannabis helps with nausea, fatigue, and sleep disorders, and can stimulate the appetite.
Heightened sensory perception and awareness – Cannabis can lead to an increase in the appreciation of scents, music, tastes, and visuals. It can also help heighten awareness of moment-to-moment presence, which is crucial when days are limited.
Spiritual or existential expressions – Part of the death process includes a spiritual or existential journey of one’s past to resolve issues before passing to the other side. According to Pathways Home Health and Hospice, studies show “a mild euphoria or sense of well-being can ease a patient’s mind, body, and spirit as they come to terms with their fate.”
Help with fear, anxiety, and mood changes – While we would love everyone to have a relaxing transition, that does not always happen. Cannabis is helpful with overwhelming emotions and mood issues during the final journey. Everyone deserves to have a sense of well-being in the end.
Relief of constipation – No one wants to deal with constipation, especially in their dying days, but cannabis can help. Trust me when I say it keeps things moving.
While we cannot avoid death, we can do more than push narcotics, benzodiazepines, and anti-depressants that leave our loved ones asleep, unconscious, and ‘out of it’. Cannabis, music, essential oils, and other therapeutics can make the death transition easier. It allows those final moments to include fond memories instead of separation and trauma.
At 2 Leaf Nurses, we provide cannabis coaching and education to anyone needing help. If you are a hospice agency, we can help you too. NCSBN charges every nurse to learn about cannabis, and every patient deserves a nurse who knows about cannabis. Together we can make a difference at the end-of-life transition. If you are a dispensary owner or worker, let us know how we can help your team.
Reference & Research Links:
Is Medical Marijuana Beneficial For End of Life Care | Pathways. (2019, February 18). Pathways Home Health and Hospice. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://pathwayshealth.org/hospice-topics/is-medical-marijuana-beneficial-for-end-of-life-care/