Research Points to Caregiver Concerns Surrounding Gun Safety and Dementia

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New research raises concerns about firearm access for people with dementia, with a focus on the ability of caregivers to address related safety issues as neurodegeneration progresses.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, showed that few dementia caregivers, including spouses and/or partners and family members, have received professional counseling about how to address guns safety despite concerns. Of nearly 120 caregivers surveyed nationwide, nearly one-third reported access to firearms in the home, and 71% expressed concern their loved one would accidentally harm themselves or someone else.

“Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia can cause changes in thinking and memory that could make someone unsafe to handle a gun – even if that person has a lifetime of experience,” lead researcher Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Figuring out what to do about firearms can be stressful for family members and other dementia caregivers.”

The findings emphasize the role healthcare providers can play in addressing firearm safety as dementia-related conditions progress. The research adds to a growing conversation surrounding safety and dementia care; researchers involved in the study launched a website to help people navigate difficult decisions surrounding safety in the home late last year.

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