In a recent newsletter, Relevar Home Care reported on the often-fatal combination of a dementia patient and access to firearms, and they offered some safety suggestions.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 45% of people aged 65 and older have guns in their household. Another 12% reside in the home of a gun owner. About 9% of Americans aged 65 and older have some type of dementia, and that number is growing. By 2050, the number of Americans with dementia who also live in a home with guns could reach 8 to 12 million.
The hallmarks of dementia are confusion, paranoia, delusion and aggression. So, it is no surprise that someone with dementia might reach for a gun when he doesn't recognize his family members or wrongly believes that they are intruders.
Ideally, families should discuss firearm access immediately after a diagnosis of dementia and set a "firearm retirement date" as an advance directive. It is similar to a discussion about when to take away car keys when driving becomes too dangerous. Or they can draw up a "gun trust" to pass guns to family members once a certain level of incapacity is reached.
Obviously, gun control is a controversial topic. Many people do not believe that taking away someone's guns is akin to taking away his car keys, since gun ownership is protected by the Constitution. That may also explain why only 11 states have laws that allow law enforcement, or sometimes family members, to petition a court to temporarily seize a weapon if someone exhibits dangerous behavior. Michigan is not one of the those states, so it is important for families to have these discussions and make a plan in advance.
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