A new survey looks at access to guns by people with dementia. It finds that caregivers and family members of people being checked for problems with thinking didn't consistently remove guns from their homes or keep them locked up.
The study underlines the need for doctors to ask caregivers if they have guns in the home and, if so, advise them on safety measures to take, the researchers say.
In the United States, there is "a significant presence of firearms in the homes of patients with dementia, and many of these patients suffer from delusions and hallucinations, some of which can be paranoid, persecutory, or hostile," says Jason Hsieh, a medical student at Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.
The results were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) 2014.
In the U.S., 27% percent of people over the age of 65 own a firearm, Hsieh says. "In general, almost 40% of households in the U.S. contain a firearm, and surprisingly, in households with a firearm, the average number of firearms is 6.6," he says.
The elderly have the highest suicide rate of any part of the population, and firearms are the most common, as well as the most fatal, method of suicide. Data from the National Trauma Databank show that as people get older, the proportion of gun injuries that are self-inflicted rises. Other data show that as they age, people are less likely to survive a gunshot and less likely to return home after recovery.