When people think of nursing homes in Israel, what comes to mind is usually the pain and misery of the elderly, and a medical staff that’s unable to find a suitable treatment to ease even a little of their suffering.
This was the case at Kibbutz Na’an nursing home. But then medical cannabis came into the picture and now, from one joint to another, life there has never seemed more optimistic.
Girls, open up the safe. 6 a.M.
The safe at the Na’an nursing home opens for the first time. During the day it’ll open twice more. Here we have the cannabis oil. A vaporizer. It comes like this.
We also have cookies. You eat it, and the effect begins. Some residents get it as a cigarette. The package looks like this. 2, 3 drags, and they’re set for the day.
Moshe prefers his medical cannabis rolled up into a cigarette. 3 drags of 0.2 oz. Calms him down immensly. “It has a very big effect on me.”
What? The cigarette.
How old are you? 78.
That’s 50 years.
-between us? -Yeah.
It kinda of feels like dizziness.
Do you want a glass of water? Not dizziness.
Some dizziness is very bad, and some.
Like drinking French champagne.
So you feel as if you’ve just had some champagne? Exactly.
For the past 9 months, 14 residents of Kibbutz Na’an nursing home have received medical cannabis.
The active ingredient of cannabis relieves pain, increases the appetite and creates a good feeling. A resident who’s just started recieving the cannabis was calm last night, ate well and drank well and had an excellent night’s sleep. The department at Na’an is the only one in the world to treat nursing home residents using medical cannabis.
In the late morning, it’s 69 year-old Sarah’s turn.
Just by smoking a joint she’s gradually gone off medications and her appetite’s returned.
Smoke another one, and then we’ll go eat, okay? Here you go, Rom.
I’ll change your bag in a minute.
90 year-old Rom is inhaling medical cannabis fumes using a special device fitted to his specific needs.
His body reacts immediately. The tremors of his Parkinson’s disease gradually die down. How are you doing, Rom? It’s a lot of fun.
I come to someone, tell them, "Just a little powder now, okay? Just a tiny bit, with their food. Half an hour later, the pain’s gone. The tremors are gone. Zachi Klein has been volunteering with Rom for the past 9 months.
He’s actually a filmmaker, but was called there after the staff watched his film about medical cannabis. When you see how well it works, it’s hard to stop.
I don’t know.
Nobody else is.
An answer? Why i do it? Is it my mission? No.
How do you feel now? -Excellent.
I almost left a year ago, i felt it was the end of the road, that it was over. That we’d learned to prolong life, we could do that very well, but the quality wasn’t.
I didn’t know what we could offer them. Their suffering was obvious, and life at the home. I really felt like I’d done all I could. The medication wouldn’t give us the desired effect. It was always imperfect.
So we’d add more medication to deal with the first medication’s side effects. And now? By now, out of 14 patients we’ve dropped 4-5 meds for each resident, which is amazing news. 4 years ago, when she was 36, Inbal became the head nurse of the toughest department at the home.
She’s been fighting ever since, trying to get each resident the permit to use medical cannabis, even if it sometimes takes too long. Look, the first resident to get the permit, she.
The very first, passed away.
She got the permit, that is, we got it after she’d already died.
And that still happens.
I’m not saying it should be available at every supermarket. Not at all. I’m saying that the geriatric staff should be authorized. They studied this, they understand it and they should be able to sign off on it and begin treatment immediately. We shouldn’t let it drag.
If an elderly patient needs treatment, they should get it, no question. If it can alleviate side effects, it would be an injustice to refuse. The system needs to get used to this and to adjust its procedures accordingly.
Today we’re getting a beauty treatment. We’ll start with scent stimulation. What do you see here? You. -you’re there too.
Well, if you think.
I think you’re beautiful.
You’re entitled to.
The music coming out of Moshe’s room captures our attention. A few minutes ago he smoked a joint, now his computer is on and he’s writing. I’m quite surprised myself, because i started talking, started writing, listening to music, painting. In short, it opened me up a bit.
After a few months, Rom has gotten used to the cannabis treatment.
Those were the days. His wife Rachel hopes he won’t lose his cannabis permit and that they’ll be able to celebrate their 71st wedding anniversary. We should be good to our senior citizens. They’ve suffered enough. If we can make this happen. We’ve improved the life of the elderly immensely.
Well, the Tikkun Olam company has been helping the nursing home, while the Health Ministry stated that their attitude towards the use of medical cannabis at the Na’an nursing home is a positive one.
“if the cannabis is good for the residents at Na’an. They said, "we will continue to issue permits for its use.”
So said Dr.Yahuda Baruch, who is in charge of medical cannabis permits at the Ministry.
We can finally say something good about the Health Ministry. If they’re happy, we’re happy. And the elderly for sure!