Hebrew Home in Riverdale offers medical marijuana program to elderly residents

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The Hebrew Home in Riverdale allows its elderly residents to use medical marijuana in a program that started three years ago.

As first reported by the Riverdale Press, 87-year-old Zelda Fassler has been living at the Hebrew Home for the past three years and was suffering through a lot of pain.

"I had been taking a huge amount of medication, patches, epidurals," says Fassler.

There was no solution in sight, but the doctors at Hebrew Home had an idea. They decided to try medically prescribed marijuana with medical director Zachary Palace at the head of the decision.

"We identified that a lot of the diagnoses for which medical cannabis is approved in New York State are actually diagnoses that are very common in the geriatric population, such as Parkinson's disease, spasticity, neuropathy, neuropathic pain and inflammation. Seizure disorders a big one," says Palace.

Fassler says she isn't pain-free, but the pain she does feel is bearable and it's all thanks to a mix of CBD and THC, the chemical that produces the “high” associated with marijuana. However, she say she does not experience highs.

"I get no highs as a lot of people think. Just before I go out for breakfast, I take my medical marijuana," says Fassler.

Fassler takes her marijuana in the form of drops. The Hebrew Home is a no-smoking and no-vaping facility.

"By the time I’m in the middle of eating if I get up sometimes, I can feel it has taken effect,” says Fassler. “I feel no pain. It's like having a headache and taking two Tylenol, the headache goes away."

While it sounds great, there are issues. Being a classified a “schedule 1” substance by the DEA, patients must self-administer the medication. Meaning staff members can't help them take it. There's also the cost, which is about $200 a month.

"We have to pay for it ourselves, not only administer it ourselves. We're just hoping that one day Medicare will pick it up,” says Fassler.

Until then, she says it's worth the price and hopes more residents will take advantage soon.

"It's an important medication, so many people are suffering, people get a lot of relief," says Fassler.

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