Dementia & Firearms

The concern of people with dementia owning guns and firearms has become a public concern.  Tim Newman released an article that was fact checked by Isabel Godfrey explaining this concern.

The prevalence of firearms in the aging population of the U.S. is becoming a very important issue of which there is a vital need to discuss this relationship.  It is a controversial topic and it will definitely continue to be debated for years to come.  Often this focuses on young men and violent crime, but because of a recent article they are looking at the other end of the age spectrum, as older adults are more likely to own a gun than the younger people.

There are an estimated 27% of those over the age of 65 that own at least one gun, and 37% live in a home where there is a firearm present.  This may seem as an unrelated topic but is equally a hot one with the rise of dementia.  The longer people live, the more prevalent dementia becomes.  Alzheimer’s disease currently affects about 5.7 million people in the U.S.  This is the most common form of dementia, but only accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases.

The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association considers the firearm ownership in relation to old age, depression and dementia.  Symptoms of dementia includes decreased judgment, mood changes, memory loss and disorientation.  It is suggested that we need legislation to ensure people who are experiencing symptoms as these do not have easy access to a firearm.

Dr. Katherine Galluzzi from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine is author of an article on this issue.  She believes nothing is easy about this and people’s identities are formed in ways and degree to which they can feel self-sufficient.  They do believe the hard thing needs to be done in the interest of public safety.

Her article discusses the prevalence of depression in older adults, especially older white men, who are in the largest group of individuals to complete suicide.  The older adults are more likely to die by suicide than younger people and they do talk more openly about their intent.

Red flag laws might offer a solution to these concerns.  Families can request the temporary removal of firearms from someone who may pose a danger to themselves or to those around them.  They are in hopes that the red flag law could help family members and doctors remove firearms from those having more severe symptoms.

These difficult discussions don’t get easier as the partient’s mental state deteriorates, and taking away a person’s car or gun is a debatable question for many.  Families must talk about this early to decide on power of attorney so someone can act in the best interest of the patient if they can no longer do it themselves.  This can cause bad feelings among the family if they wait too long and the disabled person can’t realize why you are doing what you are.  Keep your elderly members and other family members safe.

Dr Fredda Branyon