Ms. SARAH DREYSON: "My great uncle had what they used to call hardening of the arteries, and we in the family always say that his illness killed his second wife. Aunt Celia became exhausted from going out in the middle of the night to fetch him home when he went wandering around without his clothes on. She felt so ashamed of his behavior, and got so upset whenever she had to go collect him at the police station, that she finally had a heart attack."
Celia Dreyson's family, like some others, blames the patient for the health problems of the caregiver. Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease certainly puts an extraordinary stress on all one's physical and mental resources. It is for this very reason that the most loving care of your memory-impaired relative must include loving care for yourself. There are probably many ways that Aunt Celia could have lightened her burden. She could have reduced the effects of her own exhaustion and stress by looking after her physical health -- by eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular medical attention, and understanding and learning to cope with the many upsetting and complex feelings that caregivers experience.