Firearm Safety

gun safety

Although the person with Alzheimer’s might have once been able to handle a gun, serious accidents can occur. The use of firearms requires complex mental skills that are usually lost in early dementia.

Statistics

  • One half of all American homes have one or more firearms.
  • Studies indicate that physically aggressive behavior has been found to occur in 30 to 50 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The presence of firearms could contribute to the serious consequences of such behavior. Assault by persons with dementia can result in psychiatric hospitalization.
  • Studies also found that in more than 60 percent of the homes where guns were present, family members reported that the guns were loaded or that they were unaware of their loaded status. This was despite dementia severity, severity of depression, or perceived incompetence of the person with dementia living in the household.

Suggested gun safety tips

  • Although a person with Alzheimer’s might have once been able to handle a gun, serious accidents can occur. The use of firearms requires complex mental skills that are affected by dementia.
  • Guns must be put in a safe place. The best course of action is to lock the gun in a cabinet or drawer, or remove the gun from the house. Don’t allow the patient unsupervised access to a gun.
  • It is not sufficient just to unload guns and rifles or place a trigger lock on them.
  • Even without a gun, ammunition is still dangerous if subjected to the right conditions: a fireplace, stove, furnace, oven, microwave oven, disposal, hammer, etc. Remove weapons and ammunition.
  • Ask for outside assistance in talking with your loved one. If necessary, ask your doctor or clergy person to explain to the affected person’s hunting buddies that hunting is now too dangerous for him. Ask local police or sheriff’s department if they can help dispose of a gun or rifle if you do not know how to do so.
  • As with all such issues, the person with dementia should be involved as much as possible in the decision to remove or lock-up a gun.

Possible scenarios

  • Your family member accidentally happens upon an unloaded gun. He realizes that he should give it to you immediately. Off he goes looking for you, carrying the gun and walking down the corridor of your condominium or apartment complex. What would the neighbors think? What would the police do, maybe not realizing that your family member has Alzheimer’s disease?
  • The same scenario could happen with knives or other weapon collections, even if they are far from the ammunition that would make them operable. Also consider toy guns that look real enough to be convincing, even to the police, or real pistols with locks that can still be picked up and carried.
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