Dementia And Guns: When Should Doctors Broach The Topic?

Dementia And Guns: When Should Doctors Broach The Topic?

Gun Rights

During routine visits for patients who are at risk is the best time to ask about guns in the home for (AlexRaths/iStock) Some patients refuse to answer. Many doctors don’t ask. As the number of Americans with dementia rises, health professionals are grappling with when and how to pose the question: “Do you have guns at home?” While gun violence data is scarce, a Kaiser Health News investigation with PBS NewsHour published in June uncovered over 100 cases across the United States since 2012 in which people with dementia used guns to kill themselves or others. The shooters often acted during bouts of confusion, paranoia, delusion, or aggression—common symptoms of dementia. Tragically they shot spouses, children, and caregivers. Yet health care providers across the country say they have not received enough guidance on whether, when, and how to counsel families on gun safety. Dr. Altaf Saadi, a neurologist at UCLA who has been practicing medicine for five years, said the KHN article revealed a “blind spot” in her clinical practice. After reading it, she looked up the American Academy of Neurology’s advice on treating dementia patients. Its guidelines suggest doctors consider asking about “access to firearms or other weapons” during a safety screen, but they don’t say what to do if a patient does have guns. Amid a dearth of national gun safety data, there are no scientific standards for when a health care provider should discuss gun access for people with cognitive impairment or at what point in […]

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Dementia and guns: when should doctors broach the topic?

Dementia and guns: when should doctors broach the topic?

Gun Rights

Some patients refuse to answer. Many doctors don’t ask. As the number of Americans with dementia rises, health professionals are grappling with when and how to pose the question: “Do you have guns at home?” While gun violence data is scarce, a Kaiser Health News investigation with PBS NewsHour published in June uncovered over 100 cases across the U.S. since 2012 in which people with dementia used guns to kill themselves or others. The shooters often acted during bouts of confusion, paranoia, delusion or aggression — common symptoms of dementia. Tragically they shot spouses, children and caregivers. Yet health care providers across the country say they have not received enough guidance on whether, when and how to counsel families on gun safety. Dr. Altaf Saadi, a neurologist at UCLA who has been practicing medicine for five years, said the KHN article revealed a “blind spot” in her clinical practice. After reading it, she looked up the American Academy of Neurology’s advice on treating dementia patients. Its guidelines suggest doctors consider asking about “access to firearms or other weapons” during a safety screen — but they don’t say what to do if a patient does have guns. Amid a dearth of national gun safety data, there are no scientific standards for when a health care provider should discuss gun access for people with cognitive impairment or at what point in dementia’s progression a person becomes unfit to handle a gun. Most doctors don’t ask about firearms, research has found. In […]

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