Lack of support exhausts Alzheimer's carers

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The Dutch interest group for Alzheimer's patients, Alzheimer Netherlands, says many people who care for a partner or family member suffering from dementia find it difficult to cope.

Measures in recent years aimed at lightening the load for carers have failed to improve the situation. A survey of 1500 carers by the interest group in collaboration with research institute Nivel reveals that over half of them would like more support. They do not see their situation as having improved since 2006.

Carers run into a wide range of practical problems and have trouble changing the demented person's behaviour, which often causes debilitating stress. Some regions have appointed case managers to guide the care taking process and professionals to offer support by phone.

The Dutch Expert Care Centre says exhausted carers are a common phenomenon. Their website reports, "they have often cared for their partner for many years and have witnessed them go through increasing symptoms of dementia. If some of their work can be alleviated, it can be a big relief."

Alzheimer Nederland says the number of support workers for carers is far too low. Due to cutbacks in health insurance coverage, the resources for carers to employ help have decreased. Alzheimer Netherlands says more money should be spent on tackling the issue, especially because the number of people with Alzheimer's disease in the Netherlands is on the rise.

As the strain on carers increases, the number of reports of elderly people in the Netherlands who are victims of abuse in the home has risen markedly. In 2007, 366 cases were reported; by 2008 the figure had risen to 662. According to the advisory centre Movisie the steep rise is due to increased reporting by social workers.