mental illness - gun Sep 22, 2022

I am sure the issue of safety of seniors at home is always a concern.   Modern day social media allows an open platform to discuss mental health issues in this country.  People are more aware of the tragic events that take place on a frequent basis.  Caregivers  need to be diligent in dealing  with the mental health issues of our loved ones as much as the physical health issues they experience.   I can assure you that this will take effort and regularly on your part.  Be sure to frequently talk to your seniors about life.  It will take a consistent conversation to pick up any changes with them.  Sometimes an untreated depression can lead to tragic results.  If the conversation at all sounds hopeless or dark you must intervene and get them to see their doctor right away.  


Depression in the elderly has many signs and symptoms.  Seclusion, no appetite, not wanting to perform the tasks they usually do during the day, and a decrease in personal hygiene.  Mental illness in seniors wears many disguises.  Sometimes it may be a bipolar disease which affects the seniors by making them very happy and spending a lot of money and making purchases that they don’t need,  then pivoting into a very bad depression.   To make a comparison with senior care that we all did when raising our children.  Watch, look and listen for the signs of something not being right with them.  Things that are said that are out of character, maybe crying, anger and irritability. 


Now let's talk about the awful disease of alzheimers/dementia.  You must be aware of this disease and follow up with the doctor regularly for diagnosis and progression.  I have another article on the website to explain this disease and what to watch for.  The main problem is that  memory decreases terribly in the short term world which makes safety a huge concern when alone at home.   


So now the main issue of this article is to keep your seniors that you love safe in their home and we must address gun safety.  Uncle Joe may have been military, have several weapons in the home and has always kept them loaded.  If Uncle Joe is cognitive he will understand  gun safety, not have his weapon loaded and will keep it safely locked away from others getting hold of it.  The first scenario I want to talk about is this senior that may have alzheimers/dementia and will reach a stage where they are afraid and paranoid of people that come around them.  Not being able to remember the present day he may be having a memory from the past in his military days and meet his caregiver or even a friend or family member with his loaded gun.  If he feels really threatened he may use the gun.  With this disease he will also be very protective of his weapon and it may be hard to remove it totally.  But I’m sure we can find a minute to disarm the weapon so if he picks it up anytime it will no longer be a potential risk to himself or others.  It is extremely important for families to recognize the signs and take action before a tragedy occurs.  Work together as a family to be creative with ways to remove hazardous weapons when the time arrives and don’t wait for something bad to happen.


The other scenario is with having severe depression and suicide ideation.  Having any harmful weapons in home could be tragic because they will have a way to carry out their plan.  When I worked with the seniors in an Assisted Living environment I was always very cautious when admitting someone with any mental illness.  It is not just the guns that are a potential risk, it may be scissors or knives they may have in the kitchen.  My safe practice was to remove any of these items for potential risk out of eye sight of the seniors.  With mental illness the mind is very hard to predict.


Now that we all have a very good understanding of mental illness,  please take the necessary precautions to prevent a serious tragedy of your loved one or a caregiver.


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