Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 neisha, Community Member, asks

Q: My father has alzheimer's but refuses to leave his gun collection alone. How do we handle this?

My father has a gun collection. With alzheimer's this is not safe but he gets very angry when we talk about putting them away.  A big problem is years ago he obtained a concealed weapons carrier license.  Due to this he wants to keep a gun with him at all times.  None of the family feels safe with this and he is starting to exhibit more anger and irratability.  We've bought a gun safe but he refuses to leave them in there.  He hides them all over the house.  Do you have any creative ways to handle this situation?

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Answers (8)
Dorian Martin, Health Guide
4/ 8/09 3:26pm

Hi, Neisha,

 

You've asked a difficult question (and one I haven't had to deal with). Here's my best take on how to handle this situation. I would suggest that at some point soon, a family member or friend take your father out of the house for an extended period of time. At that point, you may want to collect the guns and then put them into the gun safe. I'd also talk to his doctor as well as the legal authorities about how to revoke his concealed weapons carrier license.

 

I'll keep thinking about how to handle this situation. I'm sure others will weigh in with their thoughts.

 

Take care!

 

Dorian

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Tim, Community Member
2/22/12 10:08am

  While still able to reason and think and able to make distinctions from reigh and wrong,  It would be detrimental to disarm this person!  If they want to shoot everyone, Well, That's a different story, of course.  Having my CCL for about 40 yrs. you might as well cut off my testicles.  I still want to protect me & mine and others from the dangers out there!  This is my personal opinion!

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Dorian Martin, Health Guide
2/22/12 10:26am

Hi, Tim,

 

I can fully understand how you feel. However, as Alzheimer's is not a linear disease, it's really difficult to determine whether the loved one is able to really distinguish between right or wrong. For instance, prior to her diagnosis, there were times when Mom was absolutely sane and no one could tell that she had dementia. Then a few hours later she would be totally paranoid with uncontrollable anger, lashing out at everyone (which was totally unlike her). She would also hallucinate, seeing things and people that weren't there.

 

So based on my experiences, I frankly believe that having a firearm where she could get to it during those times would have been extremely dangerous not only for Mom and myself, but for others in the household and innocent bystanders. Therefore, as a loving daughter and a concerned citizen, I would not want firearms easily accessible to someone with Alzheimer's.

 

Dorian

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Dorian Martin, Health Guide
4/ 8/09 3:57pm

Hi, Neisha,

 

Two other thoughts for you -

 

1. My dad suggested finding the guns and putting blanks in them instead of live ammo. (Again, we've never had to deal with this situation so this may not be a good suggestion).

 

2. Also, you might talk to your father's doctor about whether some medication can be prescribed that will dull your father's anger. I know that my mom would get very paranoid at times, but if we gave her a certain medication, the paranoia would ease.

 

Also, I've e-mailed the producer of this website to see if she could help find an answer for this question. So stay tuned....

 

Dorian

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NC, Community Member
4/ 8/09 5:44pm

It is a difficult situation. I heard that someone's AD parent had guns and went to trouble with the laws. So you definitely have to take the guns away. Maybe you can somehow sneak some of them out and put them in another house or place where he cannot reach at all. It would take some white lies to take the guns. Stage 5 or 6 is like my father-in-law's. He is in mid stage 6 or something and we needed to take away his research papers and money so he cannot fool around with them and make trouble. But he never has guns.... He does not drive any more.

I suggest that you talk to the police or social worker or whoever has experiences with the weapons.

 

Keep us posted,

Nina

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Dorian Martin, Health Guide
4/ 9/09 8:17am

HI, Neisha,

 

I took a poll last night of friends. Here are their thoughts:

- Hide the ammo.

- Remove the guns one at a time from the house so it doesn't become an issue. (This was suggested by several friends. One of those friends had a father who had Alzheimer's and she noted that he eventually forgot that he had the guns.)

 

Take care and keep us posted!

 

Dorian

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Dorian Martin, Health Guide
4/ 9/09 11:25am

Hi, Neisha,

 

Here's one more option for you, courtesy of a friend who also has a gun collection:

 

They can be professionally made inoperable without damaging the weapon(s) ie. remove the firing pins.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Dorian

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Dorian Martin, Health Guide
4/ 9/09 11:32am

One correction on my last post. That should read:

 

If he is not still dismantling and cleaning and (of course) firing them, they can be professionally made inoperable without damaging the weapon(s) ie. remove the firing pins.

 

Take care!

Dorian

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AFA Social Services, Health Guide
4/10/09 11:37am

Access to guns and other types of weapons can be a major risk when dealing with an individual with Alzheimer’s disease.  When someone has Alzheimer's disease, their judgment and decision making can become impaired; this can make activities that were once routine, now unsafe.  If your father is exhibiting anger about putting the guns away, this could also present a problem.  If he is becoming agitated and carrying the guns around, it is a concern that the gun could be mishandled and cause an injury or worse to either your father or someone else.  Hiding them is not a viable solution. If the guns are hidden around the house, there is also a concern about who else may find the gun, which also poses a safety risk
 
First and foremost, it is crucial to find and remove all of the guns from the household. Once this is done, there are behavioral interventions that you can try if conversation about the guns is raised by your father or if he exhibits behavioral challenges. If your father asks where they are, it is important to stay calm and redirect the conversation.  If your father is angry about the removal of the guns, validate your father’s loss of independence by stating, “Dad, I know you are angry but we are concerned for your safety.  Why don’t we go get a drink and relax."  Redirecting him to another room or conversation can help diffuse the situation.  There is no doubt that this will be a difficult decision for your father to cope with, but you can help him get through it with support and encouragement. If behavioral challenges arise that you cannot handle, it is important to discuss them with your father's healthcare professional.

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greenh2o, Community Member
11/14/11 11:06am

Hello,

 

I see that this issue of having loaded guns was posted over two years ago, but I am having a very similar problem with a family member.  Family member X has Alzheimbers (probably stage 4), is 80 years old, retired sheriff, and has loaded guns hidden throughout the house.  Their spouse was recently diagonsed with cancer and is on a lot of pain medicine.  Hence, they are both unable to make rational decisions.  Another family member who lives out of the state flew in to help and is dealing with this issue with little help.  Family member X had an outburst of anger last night and the reality of having loaded guns in the house became very appearant that this situation is DANGEROUS. They both refuse to get rid of the guns because "something" could happen and they may need them.  The helping family member had no power of attorney and does not want to rock the boat, however, they cannot receive help they need in this situation.  Any suggestions?  

 

My first thoughts is to remove family member X from the house and call the authorities but that is easier said than done. 

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AFA Social Services, Health Guide
11/15/11 4:07pm

This indeed is an issue of great concern.  As I am sure you understand, the sooner action is taken, the better.  Because of the damage to the brain from the disease, your family member likely has impaired judgment and no longer has the ability to rationalize and/or the ability to understand between right and wrong.  It is recommended that the guns be safely removed from the house; however, if this is not a possibility, at least right now, then it is necessary to safety proof the guns by removing the ammunition or firing pins, or by locking up the guns in a locked cabinet.  Your idea of calling the local authorities may or may not be a viable option since states differ on gun licensing laws.  Check the laws in your state to find out more. 

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Carol Bradley Bursack, Health Guide
11/16/11 11:18am

AFA offered fantastic advice. This is, as you know, a situation where people could be maimed or killed. Disabling the guns is a must. Law enforcement may be able to help, but something needs to be done. Please re-read the post by AFA.

Carol

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By neisha, Community Member— Last Modified: 02/22/12, First Published: 04/08/09