It’s Not Pot: What Senior Living Providers Should Know About CBD

While it doesn’t get you high and may not treat as many conditions as advertised, CBD could have an even larger immediate impact on senior living than marijuana.

For one, CBD is everywhere these days, including in cookies, coffee and even dog treats. And in a sign of the times, pharmacy giants CVS (NYSE: CVS) and Walgreens (NASDAQ: WBA) are both planning on rolling out CBD-infused products in many of their stores across the U.S. At the same time, CBD products have seen growing appeal among older adults seeking relief from inflammation, insomnia, anxiety, aches and pains or other common maladies. Additionally, recent legislation has legalized hemp, a cannabis plant variety from which CBD can be extracted.

Despite CBD’s growing popularity, separating fact from fiction isn’t always easy. And like with recreational and medical pot, senior living providers are searching far and wide for best practices related to residents using it.

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That collective thirst for more cannabis knowledge has led to the creation of at least one business dedicated partly to educating senior living providers and caregivers on the safe use of those products. The Sebastopol, California-based business, KasanaCare, launched earlier this year and now has a list of clients that includes regional provider Carlton Senior Living, which operates communities throughout Northern California; and dementia-care provider WindChime of Marin, which is managed by Integral Senior Living (ISL).

Jeffrey Westman

“We realized that there’s really no single source of information and guidance for caregivers, provides and recipients, specifically in the use and administration and interactions of cannabinoids,” said Linda Jacobson, who handles education and outreach for KasanaCare. “[Providers] ask the same basic questions, such as what CBD is or how residents can use marijuana without smoking.”

Here are the answers to a few questions providers might have, based on guidance from experts in the senior living industry:

What is CBD?

CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis plants like hemp or marijuana. Unlike THC — or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in pot — CBD alone is not thought to intoxicate its users. It is available in a variety of forms, including oils, tinctures, creams and edibles — though many of these products come in extremely low doses. CBD can be mixed with THC, and some products offer varying ratios of the two compounds.

Does CBD really work?

One common refrain among CBD retailers is that the compound can help treat a variety of ailments without getting users high. Multiple studies involving people have shown CBD is effective in reducing certain kinds of seizures, and others indicate it might help with pain.

Overall, however, there is little known about how CBD affects users, including seniors, according to Dr. Cari Levy, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and immediate past-president of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine Board of Directors.

“We have so little data about CBD in older adults that it is really difficult to know what place CBD has,” Levy told SHN. “What we really need are pragmatic trials studying rigorously its potential.”

Is CBD illegal?

The answer to this question is complicated, and varies depending on who you ask.

While it can be obtained just about anywhere, CBD is still federally illegal, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). However, the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp — a plant by which CBD products can be derived — from the Controlled Substances Act. In other words, there are new ways by which CBD could exist within the letter of the law, but that is not yet set in stone.

Because of the compound’s iffy legal status, senior living communities should proceed with caution for now, according to Gabi Sanchez, a shareholder and co-chair with the senior living and long-term care team at Seattle-based law firm Lane Powell PC.

“My initial reaction is, if it’s coming from hemp, you’re probably not going to get any enforcement,” Sanchez told SHN. “But it really depends on this administration and [William Barr,] the new attorney general.”

Are there any current best practices regarding CBD?

Like with marijuana, senior living providers should develop basic policies and procedures regarding what residents can and cannot do with CBD. At the very least, operators should treat CBD like any other over-the-counter medication, such as tylenol. As such, documentation and resident evaluation is important.

“We’ve been advising our clients to treat it like any other drug or supplement,” Sanchez said. “But sticking your head in the sand is a really bad thing to do.”

And the need for some form of organizational awareness is great, as it’s a safe assumption that senior living residents across the country are already experimenting with CBD, Levy said.

“It behooves us to develop policies and procedures around its use in our communities. Know that it is already in our communities,” she added. “Nearly every time I speak to an older adult, the topic of pain comes up in conversation and, almost always, the comment is followed by a request for my opinion about CBD or, more often than not, a review on the formulation they most recently tried.”

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