Should a family remove their guns after a dementia diagnosis? Here’s why this one did

9 News

Lloyd Bates worked in construction almost all his life.

That’s why it came as a surprise to his wife, Carol, when the day came that he couldn’t remember the basics of carpentry. Being that he’s blind in one eye and partially losing his hearing, she wrote most of Lloyd’s missteps off as aging.

“He couldn’t figure out how to put plugs in drywall. He couldn’t see to put them in,” Carol said. “I attributed a lot of what was happening to his inability to see.”  

Lloyd, 87, laughs as she explains that, describing himself as an old hound dog.

Eventually, it was Carol who realized she was the one who didn’t see the issue: her husband had dementia.

“I think I was in denial because I didn’t want to see it,” she said.

Carol also noticed her husband would get confused about where they were going or what city they were in. Sometimes, he would ask the same question around a dozen times in a span of 15 minutes.

The changes weren’t lost on Lloyd, either.

“It concerned me,” he said. “At times, I wondered if I was thinking as I should.”

Three years ago, he got the formal diagnosis. As the Denver couple started to come to terms with a future they were hoping wasn’t theirs, a caregiver helped them come to another realization.

“Do you know Lloyd has a gun in his nightstand?” said Carol, recalling the conversation. “And I said, ‘yes.’ I said, ‘he used to be a deputy sheriff, and he always has his gun right there.’”

Lloyd spent a decade with the Adams County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse, working for two of those years as captain. The Naval Air veteran also served in the Korean War. But the caregiver told them that a gun next to the bed wasn’t a good idea, given Lloyd’s state of mind.

Carol started thinking about the situation and looking into the facts. That’s when she realized her husband could get confused at night when she got up to go to the bathroom, or turn down the heat, and he might not recognize her.

“That’s when we decided to lock them up,” said Carol.

At first, Lloyd said he didn’t think this was necessary but eventually told Carol to do what she thought was best for their safety. The guns have been in a safe for the last three years.

A decision like this is hardly isolated to the Bateses. Emmy Betz, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said more people with dementia in their families should consider having conversations about it early on.

Betz worked with her colleagues to come up with a letter (found here) that families can use ahead of time. It would serve as a written agreement between loved ones and someone diagnosed with dementia, acknowledging there could be a time when it’s no longer safe for them to access a firearm and designate someone to step in at that time.

“This paper can sort of be a conversation starter,” said Betz.

She believes that if the conversation is had sooner rather than later, someone living with dementia may be able to make decisions for themselves and let this agreement serve as a reminder down the line.

Both Betz and Joleen Sussman, a board certified Gero Psychologist working with dementia patients at the VA Medical Center in Denver, said a decision around firearms can include multiple options.

Those include:

  • Removing firearms from the home.
  • Removing ammunition from the home.
  • Disabling the firearm.
  • Locking up the firearm and make sure the person with dementia doesn’t have access to the code.
  • Making sure the firearm is with a family member who can keep it secure.

Both experts also said to remember some people may be more attached to their guns or feel a decision like this is eating away at their independence, emphasizing how important it is to be respectful to the person who is being asked to let something go.

For the Bateses, both knew theirs was the right decision for them. They said a decision like this can protect someone from themselves.

“You need to get them so they’re not accessible. They need to [be] put someplace where they have no idea they’re there, or they won’t stumble into them or something,” Lloyd said.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 helpline people can call if they have questions (1-800-272-3900). People can also talk to their primary care provider and ask for a social worker or someone who specializes in dementia care.

The local VA has provided the help for Lloyd and Carol, who have been married 14 years and counting.

“That’s why we needed mental health help, too,” she jokes. “We wanted this one to work.”

6 thoughts on “Should a family remove their guns after a dementia diagnosis? Here’s why this one did

    1. Propaganda indeed, but also an indirect precedent. This is how they ease it in. It will soon be introduced as legislation for confiscation.
      My hero of the year is still that 92 year old woman that gunned her dirty son of a bitch son down for trying to remove her from her home and control the last of her life, probably so he could get her money.
      The fact that the article is put in a proposition shows exactly what the intent is.
      If these mother f-kers fear anything, it is old people. And the definition for dementia could easily be standardized as people who have delusions of a government that has enslaved them and intends to kill them.
      No, there is nothing good about this bullshit.

      1. “If these mother f-kers fear anything, it is old people”
        you dam sure got that right

        I have many stories of myself and my ol’Man that are news worthy , but glad they didnt become one
        This family dont take any shit ..

        My Dad is 82 ..some punk ass kid wrecks his car on his front lawn acting like a fool
        and starts to go off on my Dad at 3 in the morning

        My dad is standing on his front lawn with his Smith 686 in his belt lecturing this kid as the Pigs show up .. and he tells them Is there a problem ?
        you can have him when I’m fukin’ done with him, so wait your god dam turn ..and they waited until he was done giving this entitlement brat a piece of his mind at 3 Am

        to hear him tell the story is hilarious.. a bit scary , yes ..but he had them all standing down until he was done
        yeah dont F with the elderly ..and I’m quickly approaching that period in my life

  1. Pretty soon it’ll be that if you have a broken finger nail they’ll have to take your guns. That finger nail could get caught on the trigger and cause you shoot an unintended target. Hiccups could also affect your aim, and we all get hiccups once in a while. Might as well just do as Diane suggests:




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