HealthDay News — Approaches to addressing the potential complications of owning firearms for persons with dementia (PWD) are presented in an article published online May 8 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Noting that 7.8 to 11.8 million PWD may live in a home with a firearm by 2050, Marian E. Betz, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, and colleagues reviewed clinical considerations related to owning a gun for PWD.

The authors note that the primary risk for firearm injury for PWD is suicide; firearms are the most common method of suicide among PWD. 

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In addition, PWD access to firearms may place families and caregivers at risk. There is currently no validated screening tool to assess access to firearms among cognitively impaired individuals; furthermore, the most appropriate time and location for screening is not well-established. For patients with minimal cognitive impairment, approaches to firearms could be similar to those related to driving, including proactively discussing firearm access and considering setting a firearm retirement date. 

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If PWD are explicitly identified as unsafe around firearms, guns should be securely locked to prevent unsupervised access, guns should be stored elsewhere, or unwanted firearms should be disposed of permanently.

“We believe that a concerted, cooperative effort making the best use of the data at hand can help prevent injuries and deaths while protecting the dignity and rights of older adults,” the authors write.

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