BY:Beverly Bernstein Joie,  MS, CMC
President Elder Connections

Guns in the way of the Frail Elderly

They are an elderly married couple in their eighties who are both grappling with the effects of dementia.  The senior man has always prided himself on being a gun collector and hunter.  One day, Elder Connections got a call that he had attacked is wife with a knife.  A scuffle occurred and this senior man ended up in the hospital emergency room.

When their out of town adult daughter tried to help, she was blasted as someone trying to take their money.  This was far from the truth.  Because, this elderly man continued to taunt his adult children by phone with threats and accusations.

Through a legal process, guardians were appointed because the elderly couple was incompetent to manage their own financial or medical affairs.  What we didn’t know — there were eight guns residing in their home.

Alarming Number of Seniors Own Guns

According to the 2004 National Firearms Survey, more than a quarter of people over the age of sixty-five own guns.  Guns are a symbol of independence and individualism for many Americans.  Yet, they expose those who are cognitively impaired to danger to themselves and others.   With that, families have yet another dilemma of substantial consequence to address besides taking the keys to the car away.  Is this true for you?

5 Tips to Help You Approach the issue of Guns

  • Use the rules of most home care agencies to inform parents that no caregiver will enter a home with guns.
  • Inform them that those in assisted care and nursing homes can not bring their guns with them.
  • Store heirloom guns (without bullets) with you and allow them to see them upon request.
  • The law is typically of little help in this situation.  Families must rely on themselves to address this issue.
  • The police can not intervene without a guardianship in place until after an incident.

Your Next Steps for Better Senior Care

  • Start with a dialogue about gun ownership immediately after a dementia diagnosis is made.
  • Respect the meaning that guns may have for a senior.
  • Do not expect immediate compliance.
  • Guardianships are the last choice, but should be considered when a parent is diagnosed with advancing dementia and displays behavior that is a clear danger to themselves or others.

How Elder Connections Can Help You

As a  Geriatric Care Manager, I assist families who are facing difficult situations similar to this one.  Our professional relationship will help you explore new solutions, support and a plan for better senior care  — it starts with your first consultation.  Caring for your aging parent is not easy — don’t let guns get in your way.

 Beverly Bernstein Joie, MS, CMC
Elder Connections Certified Care Manager
Solutions for Peace of Mind . . .  serving Philadelphia & the Region