Here’s an important topic for family members to discuss: gun ownership and seniors, especially those who have been diagnosed with dementia. While there is quite a bit of awareness of the need to take the car keys away from those with dementia when their driving skills become impaired, there is little discussion about another deadly weapon found in many households. As part of the “caring for our aging parents” #Blog4Care blog carnival, please spread awareness about this topic so that families can have discussions about the proper precautions needed in their homes. Perhaps we can help prevent injuries and save lives.
If you’ve been following the news in America recently, there has been a slew of tragic shootings that have once again ignited the gun debate. The issues surrounding gun ownership and gun violence are being passionately debated right now. But one angle of this issue I never thought about before involves seniors and guns.
An intriguing post on Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly made the point that more seniors own guns than any other age group. With the increased risk of dementia as one ages, this could create a dangerous situation. The article quotes Dr. Ellen Pinholt, who wrote in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that as family members, we should think about seniors and guns the same we do about seniors and driving. While there is no maximum age limit for owning a gun or driving, mental health status should be taken into consideration for both situations.
Dr. Pinholt recommends asking “the 5 L’s” when it comes to gun ownership and seniors. The questions include if the gun is locked, if it is loaded, if there are children present where the gun is located, whether the senior is depressed, and whether the senior has been diagnosed with dementia.
Sounds like simple and sane advice for an issue that is so complex and controversial. Still, I think it is just as important to consider the issue of having a gun in the house as it is allowing a person to drive once they’ve been diagnosed with dementia. It is yet another question to add to the all-important discussion with your elderly parents and the rest of your family.
While stereotypically, these random mass shootings tend to be perpetuated by young men, anyone who has a condition that impairs the brain and impacts judgement and emotions should probably have their access to a gun restricted, to protect themselves and others. I’m not a fan of legislative restrictions on personal liberties, but when someone’s safety and society’s safety is at risk, smart and limited restrictions may be appropriate.
While there is not a good substitute to driving a car, seniors with dementia may be able to handle a replica gun that either shoots a safe-type pellet or even better, a replica gun without ammunition. Of course, immediate supervision would be necessary. As caregivers, we should try to allow our loved ones with dementia to enjoy their hobbies as long as possible, if safety measures can be taken.
What do you think about the issue of gun ownership and seniors, especially those with dementia? Should guns be immediately removed from the household upon a diagnosis of dementia or are there alternative and less drastic solutions to consider?