Research raises concerns about firearm access for people with dementia

July 15, 2020

Today, new research released from faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus looked at how caregivers address the issues of firearm safety when taking care of someone who has Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) and has access to a gun.

The findings published today in JAMA Network Open.

"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," said lead researcher Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, associate professor of emergency medicine at the CU School of Medicine. "Figuring out what to do about firearms can be stressful for family members and other dementia caregivers. Our study shows that few caregivers, including spouses and family members, have received professional counseling about how to address gun safety."

The researchers examined a national survey of adults living in homes with firearms and focused on the results of 124 caregivers for patients with dementia. Key study findings include:The results of the study underscore the role of healthcare providers in addressing firearm safety and the disease progression of ADRD. This includes routine firearm safety counseling from healthcare providers and providing easy access to information and resources from trusted sources. At the CU School of Medicine, Betz leads the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative, which uses collaboration and creative approaches to help prevent firearm injuries and deaths.

"As healthcare providers, family members and friends, we can help older adults think about what they would want to happen with their firearms, if they become unsafe to use them," said Betz. "This approach promotes respect for independence and preferences while also ensuring safety."
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This project was supported by NIH/NIMH/NIA.

About the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is a world-class medical destination at the forefront of transformative science, medicine, education, and patient care. The campus encompasses the University of Colorado health professional schools, more than 60 centers and institutes, and two nationally ranked independent hospitals that treat more than 2 million adult and pediatric patients each year. Innovative, interconnected and highly collaborative, together we deliver life-changing treatments, patient care, professional training, and conduct world-renowned research. For more information, visit http://www.cuanschutz.edu.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

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