Letters To The Editor

Readers And Tweeters: On Seniors Packing Heat And When They Should Pack It In

Letters to the Editor is a periodic KHN feature. We welcome all comments and will publish a selection. We edit for length and clarity and require full names.


Straight outta the “accidents waiting to happen” file: An estimated 9 percent of Americans 65 and older are diagnosed with dementia, marked by mental decline and personality changes. And about 45 percent of folks 65 and older have guns at home.

Over four months, Kaiser Health News, in partnership with “PBS NewsHour,” investigated the intersection of gun ownership and dementia, uncovering dozens of alarming cases of gun-related deaths and injuries (“Unlocked And Loaded: Families Confront Dementia And Guns,” June 25). The feature and accompanying video triggered a huge response, with many readers sharing personal experiences. KHN plans to follow some of those leads for follow-up stories.

Social media exploded with shares on this hot-button topic. A clinical psychologist in Woodland Hills, Calif., compared the struggle of taking away a dementia patient’s car keys to keeping firearms out of reach:

— Harry Stark, Woodland Hills, Calif.

Gerry Hills of Phoenix advocated for red-flag laws, which allow law enforcement or other state officials, and sometimes family members, to seek a court order to temporarily seize guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

— Gerry Hills, Phoenix

On Facebook, Bettina Camcigil of Alexandria, Va.,  took a hard-line stand on gun possession:

— Bettina Camcigil, Alexandria, Va.

And the South Sound Alzheimer’s Council in Olympia, Wash., issued a reminder that guns and dementia do not mix:

Be on the lookout for further coverage on guns and aging from Kaiser Health News.


A Plug For The VA

Great article on integrated health care (“Texas Clinics Busting Traditional Silos Of Mental And Physical Health Care,” July 5). Please consider sharing with your audience the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system and its long-term commitment to this very issue, dating to the 1990s at least. Thank you.

— Dr. David A. Nardone, retired clinical director of primary care at VA Medical Center, Portland, Ore.


The Feedback Loop: More On That Doggone Pain

Editor’s note: We previously shared letters on this topic, but readers continue to react.

I was very disappointed with the tone of Julie Appleby’s article on painkillers (“Doling Out Pain Pills Post-Surgery: An Ingrown Toenail Not The Same As A Bypass,” June 22), which suggests vast numbers of the American public are at risk of becoming dependent on analgesics if they are prescribed after surgery or for other painful conditions. This is just wrong; millions of people undergo surgeries every day and do not end up dependent on painkillers.

For example, I had a total hip replacement a few years ago and was prescribed OxyContin after surgery. I stopped taking them after I recovered and had no desire to continue taking them.

Now when patients present to the ER with a painful condition, they are offered Tylenol because of the erroneous fear by doctors and the organizations they work for that they are going to make an addict out of a patient. Relieving pain and suffering should be the No. 1 motivation for health care organizations, not trying to size up how likely someone might abuse pain pills.

There are probably people whose chemical makeup makes them more susceptible to becoming addicted to opioids, as with alcohol; however, that is not the majority of people. It is disgusting to me that physicians are sitting around scheming about how few analgesics they can give someone after surgery.

I am a retired registered nurse. When I started working over 40 years ago, there was never any question about giving patients adequate pain relief. Now they are more likely to let patients suffer in pain. Honestly, my dog’s pain is better treated by his vet than mine is at my doctor’s office.

— Suzanne Bolwell, Bellevue, Wash.

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