Experiences of empathy and burnout were compared among staff caring for demented patients, at a collective living unit (n = 10) and a nursing home (n=10) in the middle of Sweden. In both milieus, the staff showed great confidence in their own caring ability and disclosed a deep care and concern for their patients. All staff had the requisite attributes of empathy, and none had burnout scores indicating risk of burnout. The staff of the collective living unit gave exclusively positive descriptions of their patients, but expressed an emotional exhaustion and a feeling of being overutilized. The staff of the nursing home gave positive and negative descriptions of their patients, and experienced physical exhaustion and a feeling of being only partly utilized. The study indicates that exhaustion in staff may be related both to overwhelming experiences connected with being close to demented patients, and to feelings of guilt for not being closely related to their patients.