The United States is a gun slinging nation, including America’s seniors age 65 and older. In fact, seniors with dementia also have access to guns. According to a study published July 3, 2018, in Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, it is estimated that:
- Guns are owned by 33% of all American seniors over the age of 65.
- Twelve per cent (12%) of seniors live with someone who has a gun.
- In 1999, it was estimated that 60% of people with dementia lived in a home where there was a gun.
- By 2050 it is estimated that 7.8-11.8 million people with dementia will be living in a home with a gun.
- The numbers of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are expected to be about 13.8 million by 2050.
No Laws Prohibiting Sale of guns to People with Dementia
While 89% of the American public believe that there should be regulations and laws against gun ownership by the mentally ill, very little attention has been paid to the ownership of guns by seniors suffering from dementia. There are no federal laws prohibiting the sale of guns to people with dementia. Hawaii prohibits someone being treated for organic brain syndromes from owning a gun. Texas allows people with dementia to own guns and only prohibits people with dementia from carrying a gun in public.
People with Dementia have High Risk for Suicide by Guns
According to the study, there is a high risk for suicide among people with dementia, and 91% of all gunshot deaths in seniors are suicides. Guns are also the most common method of suicide among people with dementia.
Access to Guns by People with Dementia also Poses Danger to Family Members and Caregivers
Access to Guns by people with dementia also poses danger to family members and caregivers. Many people with dementia suffer from delusions and hallucinations and they sometimes think a family member is an intruder and could try to use a gun against them.
Sample Family Firearms Agreement
Dementia from Alzheimer’s usually comes in stages. The question facing family members and caregivers is: At what point should a demented senior be asked to turn over their guns and car keys? The lead author of the study, Dr. Emmy Betz, suggests having a sample family firearms agreement to be signed by the person, while they have only mild cognitive impairment, to set a retirement date for the gun. However, the researchers stress that no one has ever tested whether or not this can work.
The Alzheimer’s Association Suggests Asking Two Questions
If your loved one has been diagnosed with beginning dementia and is still in a state where they can drive or own a gun, this can present a real dilemma for family members.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests asking two questions.
- Do you have firearms in your home?
- Does the family member with dementia have access to these firearms?
Driving with Dementia
People with Dementia who Drive have a Higher Rate of Accidents
People with dementia often wander and there have been many stories of people with dementia who drove off in a car and got lost. Unfortunately, some never returned home. Studies also show that people with dementia have an increased rate of auto accidents.
Alzheimer’s Association Offers Tips to Stop a Person with Dementia from Driving
The Alzheimer’s Association claims that all people with Alzheimer’s disease will eventually have to quit driving. They offer tips to help family members and caregivers how to convince their loved one to give up driving. While some people with dementia easily give up driving, others show resistance. They suggest asking a doctor to write that the person with dementia should no longer drive. As a last resort, they suggest taking away the keys, removing the car out of sight or disabling it. They stress that you must also provide alternative, safe transportation.
Long-term Skilled Nursing Care for Dementia
If your loved one is suffering from dementia and is in need of long-term skilled nursing care, the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers memory care to people suffering from dementia. Van Duyn also has a fantastic array of recreational programs and activities.
People with dementia should not have access to guns and eventually all of them will have to give up driving.