If you’re looking for in-home healthcare in Manhattan, you could do a lot worse than Ambassador Concierge Nurse Management. According to Co-Founder and CEO Jeannemarie Bozza, there’s “almost nothing” they can’t do for their elite clientele.
“Almost” because of one missing part – medical marijuana.
“We have a team of ICU nurses who set up full rehabs up at home – they do hospice care, manage long-term cases for years on end, and work with patients with cardiac issues. But in almost all of these cases, we found there was a use for medical marijuana.”
That was a pipe dream at first. Though medical marijuana has been legal in New York since 2014, the legal hurdles that came with a concierge nursing company administering medical marijuana proved too much. But with the full legalization of cannabis in the state of New York earlier this year, the possibility of incorporating cannabis into treatment plans for their home care patients suddenly became very real.
Now, Ambassador Concierge Nurse Management is launching a pilot program in which staff will administer medical marijuana to qualifying patients, in consultation with a cannabis clinician. They will be one of the first concierge nursing companies in the United States to administer medical marijuana.
So far, it’s a hit.
“It’s funny because this is not what we went into business to do,” Bozza said. “We just want to be at the bedside, taking care of patients in the best way we know how, and we think that the best way to treat certain conditions, especially orthopedic surgical pain, is not through narcotics but actually THC and CBD products. But we just got a call from someone the other day asking to apply because they heard about the pilot program. It does seem to be something people are talking about and telling others about.”
Bozza said if the pilot program becomes a major draw for customers, Ambassador Concierge may have to hire more staff.
Though little researched, medical marijuana has so far been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease, among other conditions. It’s reported to decrease pain related to inflammation, decrease stress, improve appetite, decrease nausea, and can be used as a sleep aid.
While Bozza believes medical marijuana could be of use for nearly any of her patients, she says the patients who could use it most are, in general, seniors.
An analysis of a survey conducted in the Spring of 2020 by the National Survey of Drug Use and Health showed the number of adults over 65 using cannabis jumped 75% between 2015 and 2018. When 2.4 percent of seniors were using cannabis in 2015, 4.2 percent were using cannabis in 2018, and in 2019 cannabis use among seniors went up to 5 percent.
Another study, conducted in October of 2020, indicated that a whopping 61% of surveyed senior citizens who claimed to use cannabis began doing so after the age of 60, mostly to treat common health conditions.
Dr. Kenneth Weinberg, Chief Medical Officer at Cannabis Doctors of New York and advisor for Ambassador Concierge’s medical marijuana program, says at least 25% of his patients are senior citizens, and more seniors come to his office each year.
“Cannabis is useful for a number of issues seniors deal with. I think it’s a great idea to start administering it in home care, and it would be great in retirement communities and nursing homes,” Weinberg said.
One unique aspect of Ambassador Concierge’s pilot program is that nurses will attend medical marijuana appointments with patients, ensuring that they understand how cannabis treatments could fit their needs. They will also accompany clients as they purchase prescribed products and help them apply for medical marijuana cards.
“The problem I find with medical cannabis is the lack of knowledge we have on it,” Bozza said. “Western medicine likes the papers and the research, so it’s hard to get people on board because they don’t have the stats on medical marijuana that we do for other treatments. If patients don’t have someone like us assisting them through it, I don’t know that every patient would ask the questions that need to be asked. I think you need a liaison.”
Bozza said it can be especially hard for seniors to accept medical marijuana as a treatment, since they grew up during a time when there was a significant amount of stigma and misinformation surrounding the drug.
“Marijuana had such a bad rep in most of their lifetimes. A lot of older people don’t want to touch it,” Bozza said. “So I think it will be especially important, when we’re working with seniors, to be able to explain how it works and make an argument for why using this could be better than defaulting to Oxycodone or Percocet, and going through all the issues that come with painkillers.”
Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.