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Guns and Dementia: A Dangerous Combination

According to a 2020 Gallup Poll, 43 percent of American households have at least one gun on the premises. In 2022, the Alzheimer's Association reported that around 6.5 million Americans are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

Put these two statistics together and you have a recipe for trouble. If you care for a loved one who has dementia and you have guns in your home, please keep reading.

Have you considered the risk of having a gun in your home? Have you thought about what could happen?

Quite often, a person will say, “My husband (or spouse) would never harm me or himself with his gun. He’s been operating a gun safely for 40 years.” Unfortunately, with dementia, it’s impossible to predict how the disease will affect each person. The condition can cause the brain to change in ways that may affect the person’s memory, personality, behavior, judgement, ability to use good logic, and to recognize and know their family members. It can cause confusion. Some types of dementia can cause hallucinations.

Consider the following scenario: Your husband wakes during the night. He doesn’t know who you are; he thinks you’re an intruder in the house. He reaches for the handgun he keeps next to the bed. You know what comes next.

Sadly, this story has plays out every day in real life.

Many Americans are proud gun owners. The right to bear arms holds a strong symbolic power. For some, taking away their guns is unthinkable--like severing a limb.

What do you do if someone living in your home has dementia and there are guns in the house? This can be a very difficult subject to approach. Here are some tips:

  • Take inventory. How many guns are there? Are they loaded?

  • Where are the guns stored? Is there a gun in the bedroom?

  • Where is the ammunition kept?

  • Inform your doctor if there is a gun in the house and ask that he or she address the hazards.

  • Do your own online research for steps you can take on gun safety. The National Rifle Association offers tips on safe firearm storage.

  • Some professionals will argue that it’s not enough to store guns safely. They recommend removing all firearms from the home.

The most important first step is to recognize that having a gun poses a safety risk to everyone and that people with dementia are at increased risk. Learn what you can do to keep you, your loved ones, and caregivers out of harm's way. It may just save a life.

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