A recent Kaiser Health News investigation shed light on the lesser-discussed issued involving dementia patients: guns. The investigation found over 100 cases in America where dementia patients harmed or even killed themselves or others.
The news organization did not uncover all incidents, but they were able to find 95 cases of suicide by firearm during their four-month investigation. Some preliminary research also shows five percent of seniors over 65 in Washington State reported both a decline in cognitive state and owning a firearm. And, in total 33 percent of Americans over 65 own a gun.
With mass shootings dominating the headlines, issues of suicide by firearm and seniors with guns often get lost in the noise.
In some cases, it may be appropriate to have a conversation with a loved one who is experiencing cognitive decline about their gun ownership. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends completely removing guns from the homes of seniors with dementia.
They also offer a plan for family members in broaching the often-sensitive topic. One important consideration for a gun owner can be where the gun will end up after it is removed from their house. Passing it down to another family member can be an option in lieu of keeping it with a dementia patient.
As the American population ages, elderly gun ownership will become an increasingly important issue. Like driving a car, gun ownership can represent a sense of freedom for elderly individuals, so it needs to be handled with respect.
However, for many family members, allowing their loved ones with dementia to have a firearm in the house is not an option. Unfortunately, in a polarized political climate, gun control remains one of the most divisive issues in America. The NRA and gun rights activists are unlikely to implement any sort of restriction on dementia patients owning guns.