Tips for Better Senior Care when Guns Get in the Way of the Frail Elderly

Posted on August 2nd, 2010

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

Comments

2 Comments on "Tips for Better Senior Care when Guns Get in the Way of the Frail Elderly"

  1. Tim Colling on Sat, 14th Aug 2010 10:38 am
  2. This is great advice, Beverly! At our geriatric care management and home care company here in San DIego County, we have made this topic a standard part of our assessment process from the very beginning.

    This is such an important topic that I’ve posted a link to your article from our website over at http://www.trustworthycare.com/2010/08/14/other-voices/ and I hope that you like the way that we handled it.

    Sincerely,
    Tim Colling
    A Servant’s Heart Senior Care
    http://www.TrustworthyCare.com

  3. Beverly Joie on Tue, 17th Aug 2010 12:17 pm
  4. Tim:
    Thank you for your interest in this important topic. I enjoyed reading your comments.

    We currently have a client who suffers from dementia as does his wife. Once starting home care with us at Elder Connections, we learned that there were 8 guns in the home that we thought were removed. Needless to say, we were stunned! It is also our policy to ask about firearms in our intitial home care and care management assessment. But, this situation evolved in unpredictable ways.

    All is well now, once a court appointed guardian made it possible for the police to remove the guns. This problem is much more common than people imagine even in the suburbs of Phladelphia.

    Better Senior Care and Elder Connections welcome your comments and blog posts!

    Warm regards,

    Beverly