The best time to have a conversation about firearms in the house is BEFORE there is a major safety concern!
For an individual living with dementia, gun ownership may represent security, pride in a skill gained and honed over time, treasured memories of a lifetime of gun ownership and a mark of responsible adulthood.
As dementia progresses the individual affected will experience a decline in judgment skills, memory, perception and reasoning. The individual’s ability to act safely may be impaired in a variety of situations like driving, using power tools or cooking. Just as difficult conversations may have to occur around these activities, similar conversations should happen around guns.
These can be highly emotional discussions and decisions. To get you started, you should know:
- As dementia progresses, information and training in safe gun handling skills may fade.
- Some people with dementia experience changes in personality and emotions.
- Dementia affects the ability to control emotion and emotional outbursts can occur.
- People with dementia may mistake someone they know for someone else, like an intruder.
- Depression is common in those with dementia and can increase the risk of suicide if there is access to a means, like a firearm.
- In later stages of dementia, people may suffer from delusions and hallucinations, some of which can be paranoid, persecutory or hostile.
You and the person experiencing dementia can come up with a plan as to how guns should be handled as the disease progresses. You might discuss a “firearms retirement or early inheritance date.” Or the person experiencing dementia might designate someone they trust to have the authority to take away their guns when the time comes.
Whatever you and your loved one chooses to do, as the disease progresses, continual reassessment of safety issues will be needed. If dementia is creating risk, neglecting to address gun safety could result in tragedy.