About 80% of patients with Alzheimer''s disease are cared for by family members, who often lack adequate support, finances, or training for this difficult job. Few diseases disrupt patients and their families so completely or for so long a period of time as Alzheimer's. The patient''s family endures two separate losses and grieves twice:
First, they must grieve for the ongoing disappearance of the personality they recognize.
Finally, the caregiver must grieve the actual death of the person.
Often, caregivers themselves begin to show signs of psychological stress or ill health. Depression, empathy, exhaustion, guilt, and anger can play havoc with even a healthy individual faced with the care of a loved one suffering from Alzheimer's.
Support services can greatly improve caretakers' quality of life and make it easier for them to continue caring for patients in their homes. Such support includes individual and family counseling, telephone counseling, support groups, and stress management and problem-solving techniques. Such help may reduce the rates of depression and improve self-confidence in caregivers, and possibly enable the patient to remain in the home.