Cannabis Use among Persons with Dementia and Their Caregivers: Lighting up an Emerging Issue for Clinical Gerontologists

Clin Gerontol. 2021 Jan-Feb;44(1):42-52. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2020.1852465. Epub 2020 Nov 29.


Objectives: Our goal is to illuminate cannabis use among persons with dementia (PwD) and their informal caregivers relative to the use of evidence-based as well as other complementary and alternative care practices. Methods: We analyzed focus group (FG) narratives provided by 26 caregivers of PwD and identified five themes concerning the provision of cannabis to PwD and caregivers' self-use. Results: Three of the 26 caregivers provided PwD cannabis and also used themselves, another 3 of the 26 used themselves only, and all but two of the remaining FG participants indicated they would consider providing cannabis to PwD or using for themselves. These caregivers expressed a desire to obtain more empirically-based information about cannabis and to discuss options with their clinical care providers. Conclusions: A small but significant proportion of caregivers are providing cannabis to PwD as a possible treatment for agitation, sleep disturbances and other problematic secondary symptoms and using for themselves as way to relieve stress. Many other caregivers may start using cannabis upon receiving information and guidance from a credible source. Clinical Implications: Notwithstanding the need for more research, clinical gerontologists and other dementia care specialists are being looked upon to provide information and guidance about the benefits and harms of cannabis use among PwD and their caregivers.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Cannabis; caregivers; dementia; marijuana.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis*
  • Caregivers
  • Dementia* / therapy
  • Geriatricians
  • Humans
  • Sleep Wake Disorders*