Quite often, clients ask me for advice on what to do regarding their loved ones with dementia and their guns. It is very common for older people to have a gun at home for security or hunting. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, 45% of people 65 years and older have guns in their household.
People are reluctant to take anything away from their loved ones unless it is absolutely necessary. This is much like our conversation about cars and how car ownership is deeply personal. Both guns and cars are a source of pride and bring comfort and independence but must be managed well when dementia is part of the picture.
Regardless of your stance around gun ownership, it is vital that you have early and serious conversations with your loved one about any guns they keep in their home.
What’s the Risk?
Guns must be stored in a locked location, but when a person gets dementia, they may forget to keep them secure, they perceive threats that don’t exist, or their judgment may become affected by the disease.
Consider the story of a Minnesota man with dementia who shot his son during an argument about television. Or the dementia patient in Georgia who shot and killed the home health worker. It’s never inappropriate to discuss firearms and how to maintain safety in the home as dementia progresses.
Start Gun Conversations Early
When your loved one is in the very early stages of dementia ask them when the appropriate time would be to remove guns from the home and discuss them now.
Gun Trust : One option commonly discussed in the Alzheimer’s support materials is called a “gun trust”. This agreement outlines what will happen to their guns when a person reaches certain stages or behaviors of the dementia process.
If these conversations don’t lead to a solution, lock all guns in a safe and maintain control over the locks. Remove all ammunition from the home, and eventually remove all guns and other weapons.
If your loved one isn’t able or willing to be part of a constructive conversation you will have to take the difficult step of removing the guns very early in their disease process.
These conversations with family members or friends with dementia can be very difficult and taxing on you and your family. It can be helpful to have a third party assess your aging loved one and partner with you to help them age well and safely. If you need help evaluating your loved one’s gun safety or finding a good senior care solution, please schedule a call with me.