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Introduction

    Current estimates report as many as four million individuals are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the United States alone.  The prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other diseases of aging will grow as the population of older Americans mushrooms in coming years.  Since the turn of the century, life expectancy has increased dramatically, and this contributes to the rate of AD-affected population growth.  Certainly, an analysis of the major issues surrounding the care of this sizeable group is warranted.

      According to the National Institute on Aging (1998), just over half of all persons affected by Alzheimer’s disease in the United States are cared for at home.  For the purpose of this analysis, the home care environment will be examined.  “Home” is generally defined as a care environment that is not professionally maintained.  Home may be the patient’s home, a relative’s home, or a friend/non-relative’s home in which care is provided.  Hence, in this analysis, home is not an institutionalized setting, such as a nursing home, inpatient hospice unit, assisted living or group personal care home.  The caregiver to be included in this analysis is an informal caregiver, not a professional nor one who is paid for their work as a care provider. 

     The primary situation this analysis will focus upon relates to the problems home-based caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease face.  Caregiving in this context often places the individual fulfilling the caregiving role at great risk for significantly stressful experiences.  This analysis will assess and gather information about the causes and results of caregiver stress, thereby providing a basis for the identification of effective interventions.  Specific emphasis will be placed on the impact of behavioral changes that are most likely to place Alzheimer patients at risk for early institutionalization.

   Following the analysis, the discussion will be directed towards solutions.  Several options exist which may be appropriate to address the problems caregivers face as they care for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease.  Specifically, our focus will be on how technology can be used to enhance caregivers' and patients' quality of life.