Families of people with dementia will often take away the car keys to keep their family member safe. They might remove knobs from stove burners or lock up medicine.
But what’s less talked about is the risk of guns in the home for those with dementia.
That’s a growing problem, as the U.S. population gets older and the number of people with dementia soars. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, that number is expected to double in the next 20 years to about 14 million — the vast majority over the age of 65.
Researchers also estimate that nearly half of people over 65 either own a gun or live in a household with someone who does. Given those statistics, people who work with dementia patients are trying to raise awareness and make gun safety a top priority for families.
The issue came into sharp relief recently for an Aurora, Colo., couple who have been married for 38 years.
Ed was a fighter pilot who served in Korea and Vietnam. His wife Kathy, a retired nurse, asks that we use just their first names, out of privacy concerns.
At age 87, Ed can still sing the songs from his favorite musical, “Oklahoma,” by heart. He’ll gladly launch into “Boomer Sooner,” the fight song from his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma.
But as one of the millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, he also has significant memory loss and is prone to delusions.