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Helping Dad get past the loss of his guns
Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 9:14 AM
Joined: 9/7/2019
Posts: 5


I am new to this forum. My Dad is in middle stage demencia. I received a phone call at 4:30am from my 82- year old Mom, 450 miles away asking me what she should do. She said Dad had been awake for over 24 hours,  he thought the people on the TV were talking to him and were coming after him.  There was noone near that she could call.  He had a loaded gun and was sitting by the door waiting for the FBI to come and get him.  Together we decided she should call 911. They sent 6 cops to the house,  put my dad in handcuffs then went through the house and removed all his guns,  then called an ambulance. 

He was in ICU for 3 days,  heavily sedated and strapped down because he was combative.  His sugar was extremely high (over 500), he was dehydrated and had a UTI. After the underlying conditions were taken care of,  they released him to a rehab center,  where he refused to stay.  They let him go home against doctor's orders and recommended 24-hour care that my mom just couldn't give.  My husband and I have relocated here to live with them and become caregivers.  

My Dad was traumatized by all this and,  if left alone with Mom will constantly bring up his guns.  He has been mad at her ever since.  We need support and help on how to get him past all this. 

Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 10:33 AM
Joined: 6/20/2016
Posts: 1970

He’ll just have to be mad.  Don’t allow him to verbally abuse anyone and try to change the subject.  Don’t argue or try to reason.  He’s not getting them back because he legally isn’t of sound mind.  Don’t give him access to funds to buy another one or you’ll all end up dead.
Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 11:15 AM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 17266

This is not going to be an easy situation. 

It is possible that the initial behavior was brought on by the UTI and dehydration. Treatment of that helped but the experience was traumatic and certainly caused a decline that he may or may not come back from. Regardless you did the right thing.

Now is the time to work closely with your father's neurologist and the geriatric psychiatrist. They will be able to tell you if he needs any medical help.

I think it would be appropriate to tell your father that he had a horrible infection and was acting out because of it so the guns had to be put in a safe place for the time being.

Listening to your father talk about all that happened to him may be enormous help for him. Listen not only to the words but the emotion behind them. Validate rather than reason.

Please update when you can.

Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 11:22 AM
Joined: 5/21/2016
Posts: 1951

Hi, Here4Dad, I agree with dayn2nite2. Absolutely do not give him the opportunity to purchase more firearms. He needs to be monitored and also possibly re-evaluated for medications and setting if your husband and you living there is temporary and cannot be maintained. You, your husband and your mom should keep a charged cell phone on each of you at all times, also place an alert with the police department (they possibly have this on file at this time due to the last incident), and have a safe room with a door that locks from the inside, as well as an exit strategy to a neighbor or friend in the worst case scenario that he gets ahold of a gun and threatens you. It's very serious and you should not try to minimize this. Unfortunately, this disease makes the thought process of the affected persons worse, not better, over time. Sorry for the bad news but you are right to ask for help. People think, "It can't happen again!" Well, sorry, but it can.
King Boo
Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 11:58 AM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 3043

You are to be commended for very cool and calm thinking in a very dangerous situation.  It is good the police were called.

Obsessive fixations can be part of this disease; read the boards.  For some it is guns; others money, winning Publisher's clearing house; shopping; driving. 

Is your father under the care of a Geriatric Psychiatrist?  Appropriately prescribed medication can help lessen obsessive behaviors, anxiety, confabulations, paranoia, fixations and behaviors.  It can take a while to sort things out and get the right medication.  I do not like this class of medications in the hands of a general doctor, there is too much at stake.

If some of these behaviors can be mellowed just a bit, caregiving becomes more possible.  

Do not doubt you did the right thing.  Dad cannot have access to things that can be of harm.

If he is persisting with delusions, please also remove any other items like knives that could become weapons.

MN Chickadee
Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 4:50 PM
Joined: 9/7/2014
Posts: 842

You've received some good advice and encouragement from other posters. Don't take your own personal safety lightly. Be aware of other things in the house he could use as weapons. You never know when he might find the mailman or political door-knocker or anyone else a threat. 

None of us are really prepared to be caregivers, and there can be a pretty steep learning curve on relating to the PWD's perspective, de-escalating situations etc. I would first recommend you  read up on communication techniques for dementia. The basics are never argue or try to reason, validate feelings, and re-direct. Any reading or video by Teepa Snow or Naomi Feil are good places to start. The 36 Hour Day is also a good book and full of practical advice. The website for the Alz Assoc can help with resources and techniques. They also have a free hotline staffed with social workers who can help trouble shoot and refer you to local resources. The service is free.        800-272-3900. Then I would look at working with a geriatric psychiatrist. Not a regular psych, a geriatric one. They could possibly be of great help. Sometimes after all else fails, a medication can help with combativeness and fixations and allow the person to be cared for and have a higher quality of life without the severe anxiety and outbursts. 

And last of all, be aware that this won't last. Our loved ones, especially in middle stages of dementia, can really hyper-focus on something but it doesn't last forever.  I can assure you that eventually he will forget the guns. It may be a rough couple weeks or months, but try to remember it will pass eventually.  

Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 7:01 PM
Joined: 9/7/2019
Posts: 5

Hello jfkoc.

 Thank you very much for your response. We have learned that UTIs in older people does cause bouts of delerium and we feel that had something to do with this incident.  After he recovered medically and the UTI was gone,  he still swears that the people on the TV can hear him.  

I appreciate your comment in regard to listening to him when he talks about the incident.. listen to his emotions.  We have been instantly trying to redirect.

Thank you for your support.


Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 7:10 PM
Joined: 9/7/2019
Posts: 5

Hi MPSunshine,

Thank you so much for your response.  We are here to stay.  We tried to get mom and dad to move to our house (450 miles away), but can't convince dad. He built this house and they have lived her over 40 years.  My husband and i are relocating and will be here through this whole adventure. 

We all understand how important it is to keep the guns out of the house.  My nephew retrieved them from the police,  has them locked away at his house,  and no matter how many times he asks,  they are gone forever.  I hate guns!

The one he asks for most is a 22 that his dad gave him when he was a child


Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 7:24 PM
Joined: 9/7/2019
Posts: 5

Hello King Boo, 

My dad does not have a geriatric phychiatrist. The hospital put him on a psychotic medicine. The side effects of which could have been devastating. . My mom did not refill it.

Could you possibly give more info on a geriatric psychiatrist?  I'm not sure what 'geriatic' refers to and never even thought a psychiatrist would be helpful in dementia patients.  After we arrived here, i found out from Mom that Dad doesn't even know that he has dementia. I tried to talk to him one day about the guns and i mentioned that people with mental disorders aren't allowed to have guns. He then asked "you think i have a mental disorder?" Wasn't too happy about that. 

Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 7:47 PM
Joined: 9/7/2019
Posts: 5

First, please let me apology. I am a noob when it comes to forum and didn't realize that i could reply to everyone at the same time

MN Chickadee,

Your response has been most helpful!  I cannot tell you how much i appreciate the advice,  support and help i have received this far. I know this is going to be a very long hard road to travel and am thankful for this forum already.  I want to learn as much as possible on this horrible disease and how to make my Dad's last stage in life as happy and comfortable as possible.

Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019 10:02 PM
Joined: 7/12/2017
Posts: 1310

Ill go there...interesting do we have people going nuts of losing their grills, or golf clubs, or lighters or whatever, but when it comes to weapons they go really scary mad?

Better he be mad at everyone than have something he can kill someone with, and it could be anyone, even a child...think about that when you may want to give in a bit, death or his being a jerk mad, dementia or not

Seems we tend to go but the disease, well their disease doesn't take precedent over others lives and safety...let him be pissed off, whatever

MN Chickadee
Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2019 9:28 AM
Joined: 9/7/2014
Posts: 842

Here4Dad, it is very common for a PWD to not realize they have dementia. It isn't denial, they actually believe it. It's a condition called anosognosia and can be caused by dementia or other things like traumatic brain injury or mental illness. The impairment from dementia has left his brain unable to recognize its deficits, will cause lack of awareness, and can put a person in kind of an alternate reality. All you can do is go with it. There's no use in trying to convince him, showing him evidence of his dementia or behavior, or arguing with him. His brain simply can't process that anymore. All you can do is the validate and re-direct methods and work behind the scenes to keep him safe. Therapeutic fibbing is your friend once they get to a point where they can't recognize their deficits. It helps them feel safer and less anxious, makes caring for them possible, and can be the kinder thing to do in some situations. You might say the guns needed cleaning or repair, they'll be done in a few weeks. And repeat this statement until he finally forgets about them.

As for geriatric psych care, it sounds possible that's where the hospital should have sent him instead of rehab. There are gero-psych units specifically for getting a person with dementia on track (and a regular psych ward is not sufficient.) A geriatric psychiatrist specializes in dementia. When a person has severe behaviors and/or anti-psychotic drugs come into play, they are the most qualified to treat. It can take some tinkering and you don't want to suffer more than necessary as you get the meds right. A primary doctor is good at so much but that's beyond their scope. Even if it involves a long drive or is expensive, a geriatric psychiatrist can be well worth the trouble. Where I live, the nearest geriatric psych unit is 3 hours away, and nearest geri-psychiatrist is 2 hours, but many people find the drive worth it. Once a person has been seen the family can often work with the provider over the phone to make changes. You might also discuss this with the neurologist who diagnosed. 

In the meantime, don't let him watch TV or make sure it's something tame like a game show or nature show. Distract and re-direct from the guns. Try to see what his underlying feelings might be with the guns. Perhaps somewhere deep down he knows something isn't right with him and he's afraid. Afraid of the things that are happening to him. The people on TV seem real and he's unsafe. How will he ward off an attack when he feels so lost? Who will keep him and his wife safe? Try continual communication that tells him he is safe, you will always take care of him you are handling things. "I know you want your guns, dad. I know you're worried. But you know what? (your spouse) and I are here now, we're not going anywhere. We're going to make sure we are all safe. We're always going to take care of you. I promise you we're all ok and in this together. Hey, I have some cake in the kitchen, let's go have some. You could even tell him you had a security camera installed or hired a security company if it helps. Some folks also find pictures of people in the house trigger the PWD feeling unsafe (they think the people are real or looking through a window) and they take them down. Try to put yourself in his head space and make his surroundings pleasant, free of things that trigger his anxiety, and de-cluttered. Right now your job is to do and say whatever you can to get him through this and feel comfortable.