Old man with a rifle

When someone you love has dementia, life can be frightening. Add firearms into the mix, and things can become even scarier.

Nearly half of all Americans over 65 either own a gun or live with someone who does. This can be troubling, as people with dementia are at an increased risk for suicide, and firearms are the most common suicide method among dementia patients.

In addition, people with dementia who have access to a firearm may put family or caregivers at risk if the person with dementia becomes confused about other people’s identities or mistakes them for an intruder.

Talk to your family about guns before they become an issue

So, what to do? The key thing is to have a conversation about guns when the person is diagnosed with dementia. This is similar to the conversation you will likely need to have about dementia and driving. Make it clear this is a discussion about safety, which can make it easier for the person with dementia to acknowledge a possible problem.

This conversation can be part of a larger long-term care strategy session with an elder law attorney, who can help you craft an agreement that determines who decides when it is time to take the gun and where it will go.

Even if your loved one doesn’t remember the agreement when the time comes to confiscate the guns, having a plan can be helpful.

Figuring out what to do with guns can be tough. You can lock them in a safe and store the ammunition somewhere else. But guns are still risky, even if they are locked away.

A second option is to take the guns from the house altogether. But there are stringent rules about transferring gun ownership. You should consult with an attorney and make sure you have a handle on state and federal gun regulations before giving away firearms.