Human Dementia Problems

“With an illness that’s progressive and impacts your [mind], there are all kinds of safety issues that actually come up, and the use of guns is a safety issue, not unlike driving, using power tools, and cooking. I think one of the biggest challenges for families is to sort out when that safety becomes a problem that could be dangerous to the person with the disease, whatever the issue is, whether it’s driving or guns.” – Beth Kallmeyer in Guns and Dementia [at webmd.com]

63 Responses to Quote of the Day: Remembering the Guns Edition

  1. Have a relative going through this. It sucks.
    The sons came and gathered up the firearms, tools, etc.
    it’s sad to watch the progression.

    • I hear you. My mom is going through the same thing. About 6 months ago she reached into the oven and tried to remove a pie (that had been baking for over 30 minutes) with her bare hand. Needless to say, we make sure she cannot access power tools or firearms.

    • Yeah that was my first response too… it makes more sense reading the article and not just the quote.

  2. A non peer reviewed study that shows old people might get ornery after a while. I guess tens of thousands of years of human experience isn’t enough anymore, everything has to be confirmed by experts. I wonder how these experts think crazy grandpa will react when his caregiver (who he has never trusted) tries to take his property, as per doctors orders?

    • Actually, that’s not quite true. This is a medical report of a presentation at the AAIC. If you read the the MedScape version (i.e. for medical professionals) of the article rather than the layman WedMD version, you’ll see that it refers to the original presentation by its abstract number. Abstracts are, by definition, peer reviewed slide or poster presentations. Within the article are multiple references to other appropriate peer reviewed’s as well. Probably referenced papers/abstracts in the original presentation. There’s nothing inappropriate in the story.

      As far as the actual content, you would be surprised at how many medical professionals may not think to include guns in a safety talk where the patients ability to care for themselves or function competently may be compromised.

      I know how liberal media may be prone to twisting just about anything, but from the health care provider perspective this article actually take the approach of normalizing guns and putting them in the category of any other useful but potentially dangerous tool – “driving, power tools, cooking” I believe the article puts it. How many times have we not made the same comparison?

      So why take a reactive approach to this? We should take articles like this from a proactive perspective. We’ve got a medical organization treating guns as normal, everyday activities. How rare is that? Let’s use it.

  3. I have a good friend that I have talked out of buying firearms on a couple of occasions due to depression/pysch issues.. its a hard issue to deal with while trying not to make them feel insulted

  4. too early in the morning to be coherent…

    you don’t want them to be a danger to anybody else… I get that.

  5. My brother is taking care of our grandad and he recently had to make this very call. A sad decision, but the right one.

  6. I made a pact with my best bud to give me a gun, if I lose my mind, and to use it to end my life. Hopefully I will have enough mind left to do it if the time comes. I will do the same for him. If we both lose it at the same time we are SOL. I have seen too many relatives reach extreme old age with it and it’s not pretty.

    • Of all the ways to check out, shooting yourself in the melon leaves the ugliest possible mess for someone else to find. I never want to put my kid in a spot where he’s finding a piece of my scalp behind the refrigerator six months after repainting the ceiling to hide the stains left by my rapidly declining/accerating brain.

      Suicide is a very personal choice with widespread repercussions, none of which have to be dealt with by the one who chooses to punch their own clock. In that way, it CAN be very selfish indeed. I think the very least one can do is mitigate the degree of horror-movie results from the attempt.

    • Do what the Inuits did: Go to a very cold place, go far into the wilderness, sit down and await death peacefully.

  7. I think the gist is that if a person has a disease like Alzheimer’s that is progressive, when does it become time to remove the driver’s license, remove the guns, ensure the person doesn’t wander off, place them in facility, etc.

    Sad indeed.

  8. IMO the mental illness issue is way overblown. it is such a trend in this modern and wonderful time we live in to think that cures to all societal ills are within our grasp, there is much we cannot do yet. mental illness is a problem that has plagued human civilization for 1000s of years and me personally, but as great as our scientific achievement is there is still little we can do about it. often times mentally ill people can never be helped or require lifelong attention and treatment. to deny rights to the rest of us over a civilization-long issue is of course wrong

    • Yes, there isn’t anything our medicine can do. All of medical science revolves around helping the body naturally heal more quickly or effectively. When it comes to dementia that individual has lost brain cells and neural connections that can never be healed or replaced. A cure for dementia or other related conditions would be an astronomical leap in medical science.

      There is also a difference between a disease and a condition. Diseases can come and go, conditions usually stick around for a long time if not forever.

      When it comes to these kinds of conditions the individual reverts to a level equivalent of an elementary school child. We don’t give them their full rights. Having seen people in this situation first hand (my wife works directly with them every day) they are not in a position to use firearms. They can’t keep track of where they put their fork a second ago and have fits of anger over nothing. Pragmatically even firing a .22 may cause injury for some.

  9. Actually, I think this is one time where comparing cars and guns is appropriate. Both have the capacity to injure not just the person who’s using the car or gun, but others as well. The appropriate answer is family. Just like families may have to take dad’s car keys away, they may have to take away his pistol at some point.

    • Absolutely correct. There is nothing new going on here. Guns are not qualitatively different from other machinery such as cars. Relatives and friends have had to deal with this issue for a couple of hundred years (post Industrial Revolution).
      – – – We PotG need to place ourselves thoughtfully in the public debate. When an elderly person has dementia there is no longer a 2A issue at stake. The elderly are beyond militia age – a secondary concern – and at some point are beyond the capacity to use force to defend themselves – the primary concern. We don’t need government to take away our grandparents’ guns anymore than we need government to take away their cars and blenders; all dangerous machinery.
      – – – We solve the gun problem the way we solve the car and blender problem. If grandma want’s her shotgun, keys or blender back let her charge Sonny with theft. If the judge agrees granny is of sound mind and body, she gets her stuff back. If she isn’t willing or able to tell it to the judge then that’s the end of the story. We don’t need the sheriff to search and seize blenders, cars or guns.

    • The only thing that bothered me about the source article is that it singles out firearms. Well, that and that a “study” was required to support the findings, but I’ll let that slide.

      Why zero in on firearms unless to politicize them? To continue feeding the mystery and fear assigned to them by non gun people?

      No argument on their conclusions, but it would have struck me as more responsible and useful to simply include firearms among a list of things that should have access restricted, like knives, fire, medication, etc.

        • WebMD article title: Guns and Dementia.

          The whole article is about guns, specifically. That quoted passage is pretty much the only time that “driving, using power tools, and cooking” are even mentioned. Why a whole article about guns where “safety” is a footnote? Why not an article about safety where the most important considerations (e.g., guns, driving, using power tools, and cooking) are briefly mentioned as details?

          That’s my nitpick.

    • That’s a little extreme NickD; But I would agree that for many; the psychology of someone choosing to be a progressive means they are either an elitist that believes “common people” are not capable of running their own lives and need to be told what to do by their “betters”, or, they are people that feel helpless, powerless and ineffectual and want their “betters” in government to enforce “social justice” against those they blame for their victimhood.

      It is a co-dependent and unhealthy relationship between the Statist/progressive powers that be and the “common people” that vote for and support this power structure/relationship.

  10. Went through this with our Dad (Brother and I). Senile dementia progressed to Alzheimer’s. Dad voluntarily gave up driving. He only had one small pistol, which we locked away with Brother’s guns. Dad got to where he could not even remember Mom’s name and they were married 64 years. Often he did not know who we were, even though he lived with my Brother and saw him everyday. I don’t think he remembered he had a gun, nor had any inclination to do anything with it, if he did remember.
    It’s a terrible thing to watch a person slowly disappear mentally. Dad never got mean-spirited, but many Alzheimer’s Patients do. Don’t take any chances. That’s all I can advise.

  11. Yeah, but what if the immediate family member are bunch of wackos too, then what?

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

    We are all the sum of our verbal community, our life experiences, and lastly, but probably the most significant, our genetic endowments.

  12. Having friends and/or family take away things that could be dangerous to someone who is depressed and/or has degenerative mental conditions isn’t a problem for me … it makes perfect sense to do so. That’s simply people looking out for each other and taking care of each other (not to say that it’s easy for people to do those things). Ideally, if the person recognizes that they are depressed – or that their mental faculties are not what they used to be – they will agree to have those items removed in whatever moments of lucidity they have.

    The problem issue for me is when the government decides to make it mandatory, and proceeds to confiscate firearms (or other things). That has a high potential for abuse, IMO.

    • My grandfather has dementia with severe paranoia. I cringe to think what crazy stuff he could have done had he had access to firearms. The bad news is is that people with that kind of condition seldom recognize that they have it.

    • I hope that my kids taking my guns will be my idea, but I also realize that some combinations of mental problems may preclude that. All things being equal, tho, I believe that day will come, if only due to old age.

  13. What about blathering’s disease, whoever’s had a person in their family like this that thought firearms would be a problem with them is idiotic, unless you were afraid they’d forget what the combination to the safe was, where the trigger-lock keys were. If people, so afflicted, were violent (by any means) WebMD would be calling for euthanasia.

  14. Sad indeed. Grandpa in law is going thru that now, but the upside is he’s not grumpy anymore…life is new(er) every day, if you take that viewpoint.

    @Rockonhellchild
    We are not the sum of our ancestry. ..Young ‘s theory falls flat b/c we all have the power of choice. Alfred Adler posed that theory (Individual Psychology) and it holds against Freud (coca in addict) and Young. That’s how folks from ghettos or horrible family dynamics break free from others paths taken……like leaving Chicago.

    • “That’s how folks from ghettos or horrible family dynamics break free from others paths taken……like leaving Chicago.”

      Well, first of all, that is environment, not genetics necessarily.

      Secondly, statistically speaking, how often does that really occur? Any studies on that? My uninformed guess would be that a large majority stay in place to repeat that cycle. Would welcome verifiable data contradicting that guess.

      • I agree that is rare. Even Charles Payne describes himself as being completely alone as a child and young man, as the only person he even knew who was determined to break out of the cycle of poverty. Of any age.

    • “A person’s genetic endowment, a product of the evolution of the species, is said to explain part of the workings of his mind and his personal history the rest.”
      B. F. Skinner

      I was paraphrasing Skinner.

      And yes, genetics does play a role in behavior and how it functions.

      Ex: Bipolar Disorder is not randomly occurring, it can be linked to family history, much like most things… Heart disease, diabetes, etc.

      Therefore, someone who is Bipolar would tend to have mood swings, and would be more likely to behave erratically. That’s genetics at work in human behavior.

  15. Just because someone is mentally ill, doesn’t necessarily mean their guns should be taken away.

    What if someone is just highly neurotic? Anxious, stressed, et cetera? Should their guns be taken away?

    What if someone is manic depressive? Bipolar? On meds, but stable? Just an example.

    My father is manic depressive and bipolar. He’s been an avid shooter and hunter his whole life, and began giving his prized firearms to family members a couple of years ago because his PHYSICAL condition is worsening, and his kidneys are failing. He now has one long rifle. He never threatened anybody, went off and started a rampage, or the like.

    I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist, but I do believe that as time carries on, more mental issues will arise, new conditions, diseases. Just imagine the amount of people right now, as we speak, who actually HAVE guns, and are afflicted with mental illnesses that have yet to be accurately discovered, classified, and treated.

    People with mental afflictions have rights, too, just like you and I. The challenge is deeming them sane enough or stable enough to be able to partake in the God-given American Right to Bear Arms.

    Hopefully, we can set up a system- that’s FAIR- with everyone’s rights and best interests in mind.

    • Individuals suffering from mental issues should perhaps be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, rather than just being lumped together by The Libtards and politicians playing doctor that know “Sh*t from Shinola” about mental illnesses.

      • Wait, you mean treat people like INDIVIDUALS? That flies in the face of “collectivist thinking,” and we can’t have that.

    • “Just because someone is mentally ill, doesn’t necessarily mean their guns should be taken away.”

      Exactly. Diagnosing affective disorders like depression, or dementia and Alzheimer’s doesn’t happen with laser-like accuracy. Alzheimer’s related cognitive symptoms are now said to sometimes start appearing decades the actual definable disease is recognized. Generally speaking, mental illnesses become a dangerously slippery slope when they get conflated with gun-ownership and gun-rights issues. Gun controllers are already trying to use the “mental illness” stigma as an excuse to confiscate guns. Amazingly, returning soldiers are now being labeled as dangerous and unsuitable for gun-ownership simply because they “might” have PTSD. This is how the slippery slope works. Gun controllers want to label anyone who owns a gun as mentally-ill and then use that as an excuse to confiscate guns..

    • They are already “deemed” sane enough to keep their firearms. The side who needs to prove something would be those who want to remove a basic right, I would suggest it should be for cause (the person did something) as opposed to some dingbat “diagnosis”.

  16. The concern I’m beginning to have is that for every argument about “mental illness and guns” that makes some sense, the door gets opened a little further for mental illness being the next “hook” that is abused by the grabbers.

    We’ve already seen some extremists try to define “owning a gun” or even “wanting to own a gun” as a mental illness.

    They are “normalizing” the conversation so that ANY time “mental illness” is used in a discussion, folks will be preconditioned to accept “no guns should be allowed.”

    Next step is the moving target of what constitutes “mental illness.”

    They are creating a meme, and doing so in a way that they can use.

    • There is a valid concern here with regard to SOME mental illnesses, but the concept of “mental illness” is so elastic it’s prone to abuse. And it must always be remembered (and people who make blanket proclamations about guns and mental illness) that many forms of it won’t impair your ability to safely and properly use a firearm.

      Indeed, VERY worrisome.

  17. The issue here is dementia in its many manifestations.

    In late stages a loaded firearm around a person suffering from advanced dementia is like putting loaded firearms around a four year old.

    • I’m sure that is true, although my late Mom’s version was complete withdrawal, she cold no more operate a firearm than drive a car, and had no interest in either. But it should normally be family that makes such a decision if the person involved does not (My Mom did). Governmental control is not warranted without overt actions in the absence of family members able to take steps. IOW, an old dude without family commits an offense and is observed in court to be acting outside the norm. THEN gubt arrogance might swing into action, but not before. 100-year-olds have defended themselves with firearms before, absolutely responsibly.

  18. Seems to me that folks are taking care of issues as they come up on a case by case basis. Seems fine to me. Progs want systems and bureaucracies with one set of (ever changing) rules for everyone. To be ‘fair’. Article seems a non issue to spur a discussion, in which it has succeeded wonderfully. As long as we remain vigilant against ‘fair’ systems.

  19. I can relate very well to the elderly with mental issues. My mother in law lived with us and had Alzheimers. We didn’t realize how far gone she was. She also had a 38revolver and a box of bullets. My wife did not want to take this away from her either and was a great source of conflict with us. I wasn’t a gun guy then but had shot as a kid. She became belligerent and combative moved out while we were away for the day. I still don’t know what happened to that gun. My dad also had guns and became senile after a quadruple bypass. And I don’t have a clue what happened to his guns. This is a big problem and I don’t have a clue how to solve it. If you live long enough s##t happens. Driving, living alone, taking care of yourself and yes having guns is all on the table.

  20. I had to make this sad decision for my father a few years ago. He was suffering from severe dementia related to Parkinson’s Disease (not his choice) and untreated Diabetes (his choice). He would cook meals and forget to turn the stove off. He changed from a cheapskate to a spendthrift. He drove like a maniac and wracked up numerous speeding, failure to stop at a signal / sign, and failure to yield tickets – all of which he hid from my mom, his wife of 40 years. He had multiple minor collisions with his car. These driving incidents happened not because he couldn’t see, but because he didn’t care. He had angry and borderline violent outbursts at my mom over stupid things, such as making something other than his favorite meal for dinner. None of this was normal behavior for him prior to the onset of the dementia. He became a different person. The change was gradual, but it was undeniable. Finally he had an outburst at my mom, threw her out of the house, and later collapsed. She found him after she returned home and EMS took him to the hospital. He was ok phyiscally, but it was clear to me what I had to do. I took ownership of his guns before he returned home. It was a sad and difficult thing to do, because he valued his independance above all else, and taking the guns symbolized me taking that away from him. But clearly, he was no longer responsible or stable enough to have them. He was depressed and unstable, and I was afraid for him and my mom. He never asked me why I took them, or asked for them back. I think he knew. It helped that he wanted me to have them after he was gone. Today he is gone and I still have the guns. There are a lot of fond memories of him associated with them.

    I shared this personal story because I see a lot of people rushing to judgement on this article. I fully support the 2nd Ammendment, but my personal experience has shown me that illness can turn a responsible gun owner into a potentially dangerous one. You can’t appreciate how dementia can change a person until you have seen it firsthand in somebody you love. This is more than “grandpa getting ornery.” This is your formerly loving, rational, and stable parent becoming irrational, deluded, and explosive. I think these decisions should be made by families, and not law enforcement or government. But sometimes these decisions do need to be made, for the good of everyone.

    • Thanks for sharing. It sounds like many of us have had similar experiences. I experienced this with my grandmother. I agree. It’s not just a matter of ‘getting ornry’. It physically affects the brain and changes the person to where you almost can’t recognize them, and they definitely can become violent and lose their ability to reason. I like the way the article equates gun ownership to the dangers of cooking, driving, etc. For us, cooking was the biggest issue. Grandma almost burned the house down a few times, and she became so violently angry at times, that we had to hide the knives. Alzheimers/dementia can be as scary as it is sad.

  21. It is sad. My father had dementia and he definitely got more aggressive and obstinate toward the end.

    I hope this doesn’t turn into a government program regarding dementia. Folks Big Data is coming and information about us will be centralized.

    • It already is. See Amazon/CIA/NSA/DHS/your_bank/DMV/AT&T Long Lines. Yahoo will be officially annexed in time as well.

  22. I have studied psychology. I have a major in that. My advice: take a good look at how and based on what mental illness tends to be diagnosed nowadays. There are a lot of issues regarding diagnosis related to many mental health problems. Even some of the illnesses are debatable as being an illness or not.

    Simple example: ADD disorder takes into consideration changes in a child behavior, changes that deviate from “what we know children to be and how we expect them to behave”, but neglects to take note of the changes in the general environment, lifestyle, society overall.
    Question arises: does a child suffers from ADD, or that child has a normal reaction to an abnormal or profoundly changed environment? So far, ADD diagnosis refuses to take that into serious consideration, refuses to correlate modifications in children behavior with overall changes in society lifestyle. Although society changes, some basic needs of the humans, don’t. Children have some basic needs that are harder and harder to be satisfied nowadays, within the present habits of society. Yet, all this is ignored, and what could be, in fact, a normal reaction of the child to an abnormal/unsatisfactory environment, is diagnosed as a disease.

    Long story, short: when it comes to mental health issues, my opinion, as an educated person in that domain, is that experts should be regarded with serious doubts. There is quite a handful of reasons for a reasonable doubt regarding many of nowadays diagnostics.

    Also, by definition, neither psychology nor psychiatry are sciences. They are more like “educated guesses”, in various proportions. Neither of them comply with the definition and the basic requirements needed to be met, in order to be considered a science in itself.

    • And when psychology and psychiatry become politicized, they become especially dangerous to freedom and liberty. The Soviets notoriously labeled political opponents as “mentally ill” and confined them to mental hospitals. Good shrinks and good meds can be a Godsend when we have to deal with mental illnesses, but when common acts like owning guns become politicized and then medicalized we’re all in real trouble.

      • Precisely that was the aim of my warning: do not let things to get too medicalized. Once door opened to that, thing get ugly pretty fast.

        It seems that in vast majority of cases, family and the close ones are relying on their good judgement in such matters. And it works. Allowing “experts” to get in, allowing things to become medicalized, it’s a bad option.

        Btw, according to latest indicators used in diagnostics nowadays, 99.99999% of the people can be proved as suffering from some aggravated form of neurosis or some psychosis, just by twisting diagnosis a little here and a little there.
        Did you know that contesting authority, by any means, even simple questions, is considered as a valid indicator of sociopathy, a psychosis class illness in itself?
        Do you prefer living among large groups of people or alone, by yourself? If you prefer alone/secluded, it means that you have distinct sociopath traits. The diagnosis, as with ADD, does not take into consideration that you might have a normal reaction to an abnormal/unsatisfactory environment. Etc.
        With all do respect, but there is not even one single person here, including myself, that cannot be proved as mentally ill by using the new definitions, standards and indicators that were approved at global level. And that should give you shivers.

        So, although there are mental health issues that are beyond doubt, usually degenerative illnesses like dementia, by opening the door too much for a medicalization of the matter, you might end up with full package of “psychologist/psychiatrist tyranny”.

        • An authoritarian state will see nothing at all wrong with using medical professionals to further its own narrow political aims. Although clinical depression is an easy illness to treat, we’re already seeing people who seriously need help becoming reluctant to seek a psychologist or psychiatrist’s help out of fear of being reported to the government.

      • Actually, there is strong evidence that Dementia, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Migranes, Depression and other related “illnesses” that are plaguing Americans and other first world peoples are connected to diet, Check into Dr. David Perlmutter M.D.’s book “Grain Brain” about $20..00 on Amazon.com.

        Having been through dementia and Alzheimer’s with my Dad, I :stumbled” upon Perlmutter’s work through PBS and have been reading what he’s saying with great interest. He is a practicing Neurologist and Nutritionist. His work is heavily documented with studies from a broad range of international sources by reputable Medical researchers, Universities and organizations, as well as from his own practice.

        This is NOT an advertisement, but offered to this discussion personally, as a regular TTAG comment contributor, because the evidence Perlmutter offers is very compelling and downright astonishing in some of the points he is making and the results being produced. You might also find his basic presentation free to watch on your local PBS TV Station, as he and his work have been used for PBS fund-raising recently, which is where I first encountered him.

  23. I’m a health care provider and I’ve been around patients and family members with dementia. And yes, it’s a sad progression but one where family members have to intervene for everyone’s safety.

    I think it would make gun control believers shake their heads in disbelief if they knew we were having a rational discussion like this…they probably think that we insist that people with advanced dementia sleep with their ARs or something…

    • “What happens when grandpa is perfectly fine but his grandkids are nuts?”

      Er, move, leaving no forwarding address?

      And change the will…

      😉

      PS- I’m available for adoption…

  24. A family I worked for had just that problem, the Dad was prone to increasing outbursts of rage. One day while he was at the doctor’s, his daughter had an arranged appointment with a local gunsmith, who removed the firing pin from his pistol.

    It wasn’t an ideal solution, but it bought them some time.

  25. We reached that point with my dad. Right about the time I made the decision to take his service and off-duty pieces, he surprised me by saying, “I think it’s time to get the guns out of my house”.

  26. Having someone you love develop Alzheimer’s is a is terrible experience. A friend, a nationally known psychiatrist, recommend two Alzheimer’s meds which, when combined, appear to work better than when administered individually. Their effectiveness has been noted by private practitioners and shared informally within the medical community. To my knowledge there hasn’t yet been an empirical study of their effectiveness. The drugs are Aricept and Naminda. They appear to be most effective at the beginning of Alzheimer’s events but can be then used long-term with good results. If you have a loved one being treated for Alzheimer’s mention these two drugs to your doctor. If he/she doesn’t know about them or isn’t interested, find a doctor who does know about them.

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