Guns & Dementia
Statistics indicate that about 43% of American households have at least one gun in their possession. In 2018, 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. That number will increase as the population continues to age. If you care for a loved one with dementia and have a gun in your home, you’ll want to pay attention to the risk of danger.
You may be concerned about your family member being able to drive. Maybe you’ve even tried to hide the car keys or sold the car. You may also wonder if they can still operate the stove safely without causing a household fire. But have you considered the risk of having a gun in your home? Have you thought about what could happen?
Quite often, a person will say “My husband (or spouse) would never harm me or himself with his gun. He’s been operating a gun safely for 40 years.” Unfortunately, with dementia, it’s impossible to predict how the disease will affect each individual person. The condition can cause the brain to change in ways that may affect the person’s memory, personality, behavior, judgement, ability to use good logic, and to recognize and know their family members. It can cause confusion and some types of dementia can cause hallucinations. All of this can be a recipe for danger.
Consider the following scenario: Your husband wakes during the night. He doesn’t know who you are and thinks you’re a stranger or intruder in the house. He reaches for the handgun he keeps next to the bed. Sadly, this story has played out in real life and has resulted in tragic outcomes.
Many Americans are proud gun owners and firearms hold strong symbolic power. For some, taking away their gun would be equated to cutting off their right arm. What do you do if you are concerned about the guns in your home?
It can be a very difficult subject to approach. Here are some tips:
Take inventory. Is there a gun in the home? How many guns are there and are they loaded?
Where are the guns stored? Is there a gun in the bedroom?
Do you know where the ammunition is?
Inform your doctor if there is a gun in the house and ask that he or she address the hazards. They may not be comfortable navigating the subject matter either but at least you can bring it to their attention and let them know your concerns. It’s becoming more and more difficult for health care providers to not take an active role in gun safety.
Do your own online research for steps you can take on gun safety.
The National Rifle Association offers tips on safe firearm storage.
Some professionals will argue that it’s not enough to store guns safely. They recommend removing all firearms from the home.
The most important first step is to recognize that having a gun poses a safety risk to everyone and that people with dementia are at increased risk. Learn what you can do and take steps today to keep you, your loved ones and caregivers safe. It may just save a life.