As we address all aspects of senior home safety, we cannot leave out the often overlooked issue of elderly gun owners. Here are some statistics about elderly gun owners:
- According to the national Firearms Survey of 2004, more than 25% of people ages 65 and older are elderly gun owners.
- The Veterans Health Administration found that 40% of veterans with mild to moderate dementia had a gun in their home.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), 4,276 people age 65+ committed suicide by firearm. Older white males have the highest suicide rates and the majority use a gun. Double suicides or suicide-murders among elderly couples are more common than among other age groups.
What should I do if my elderly parent owns a gun and I’m concerned about safety?
We offer senior safety gun tips and conversation pointers in our “Stop, or Mom will Shoot!” article. Additionally:
- Generally, you want to start by identifying the potential safety concerns (i.e. assessing the situation). Think about issues like competency, physical abilities to use the firearm and related risks, and why your parent had the gun or feels a need to continue having it in the home. When volunteers or providers are coming into the home, this brings additional risk (and they may ask about guns in their intake process and have policies for their staff’s safety).
- A professional care manager can assist with assessing the situation, as well as the conversations about concerns and what to do. As a concerned family member, it is better to address the situation sooner than later. The role of the physician in asking about guns has been highly controversial in Florida, and doctors may have limited knowledge of the home environment anyway.
- You may need a great deal of help and support if dealing with a parent with dementia or mental illness. People with dementia sometimes suffer from paranoia or delusions, making this process more difficult (and increasing risk). Seek help immediately if these issues are a concern and/or if your loved one has expressed suicidal or violent thoughts.
- Get assistance in understanding the laws about transferring guns. Our staff works closely with local law enforcement when such an issue arises. We’ll have an expert, Julie Williams from the Largo Police Department, presenting to our staff soon, so keep an eye out for an overview of more resources/information on the Aging Wisely blog. The ATF offers a form, Record of Firearms Transfer Between Unlicensed Persons, which also provides FAQs about this topic.
Contact the EasyLiving/Aging Wisely team today for help with gun safety and other senior home safety concerns. Give us a call at 727-447-5845 for a free in-home needs analysis.