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Betz ME, Azrael D, Johnson RL, et al. Views on Firearm Safety Among Caregivers of People With Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(7):e207756. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.7756
What proportion of adults living in homes with firearms are caregivers for people with Alzheimer disease and related dementias, and what are their characteristics, experiences, and preferences related to firearms?
In this survey study of US adults (aged ≥35 years) living in homes with firearms, 2.6% reported being caregivers of a person with Alzheimer disease and related dementias, and 41% of these caregivers lived with that person. Although most caregivers were open to health care professional counseling about firearm safety for persons with Alzheimer disease and related dementias, few caregivers had ever received any such counseling.
The findings suggest that many community-dwelling adults with dementia have firearm access and that there may be a need for enhanced education and resources for their caregivers.
The population of adults with Alzheimer disease and related dementias (ADRD) is increasing, and many people with ADRD have access to firearms. Little is known, however, about how caregivers of people with ADRD think about or address firearm safety.
To assess views on firearm safety risks among caregivers of persons with ADRD, experiences of caregivers with health care professional–delivered counseling, and their preferred sources of information about firearm safety.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This survey study used a probability-based online survey (National Firearms Survey, July 30 to August 11, 2019) with weights used to generate nationally representative estimates of adults living in households with firearms to assess firearm safety views of English-speaking adults 35 years or older. Respondents for the National Firearm Survery were drawn from I KnowledgePanel, a frame with approximately 55 000 US adults selected on an ongoing basis using address-based sampling methods.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Caregivers were asked whether the person with ADRD owned or had access to firearms. Additional ADRD-related measures assessed perceptions about the likelihood of types of firearm injuries involving people with ADRD, support for firearm safety counseling by health care professionals with regard to dementia, and history of ever having received such counseling.
Of 6712 invited panel members, 4030 completed the survey (completion rate, 65%). For this analysis, we excluded the youngest participants (aged 18-34 years; n = 498); among the remaining 3532 participants, 124 reported being caregivers for persons with ADRD. Of the 124 caregivers, 51% were female and the mean (SD) age was 60 (12.5) years. Most participants (71%; 95% CI, 69%-72%) thought that a person with ADRD was more likely to hurt someone else unintentionally than intentionally hurt themselves or someone else. Many participants thought health care professionals should always (45%; 95% CI, 43%-47%) or sometimes (34%; 95% CI, 32%-37%) talk about firearm safety with caregivers or patients with dementia, but only 5% of caregivers (95% CI, 2%-12%) reported that a health care professional had ever spoken to them about firearm safety. Among the 41% (95% CI, 31%-51%) of caregivers who lived with a person with dementia, 31% (95% CI, 18%-49%) said the person with dementia could access firearms in the home.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this study, few caregivers of adults with ADRD reported having received health care professional counseling about firearm safety, although most thought health care professionals should provide such counseling. These findings raise concerns about home firearm access among adults with ADRD and indicate potential opportunities for enhanced education by health care professionals and community organizations.
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