The Experience of Italians Caring for Family Members with Alzheimer's Disease


  • Ercole Vellone,

    Corresponding author
    1. Ercole Vellone, RN, MSN, Head nurse, Padre Monti Ward, S. Carlo Hospital, and Temporary Appointed Professor, School of Nursing, Catholic University, Rome, Italy
      Ms. Vellone, Padre Monti Ward, S. Carlo Hospital, via Aurelia 275, 00165 Rome, Italy. E-mail:
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Julita Sansoni,

    1. Julita Sansoni, RN, MSN, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Marlene Zichi Cohen

    1. Marlene Zichi Cohen, RN, PhD, FAAN, Zeta Pi, John S. Dunn, Sr., Distinguished Professor in Oncology Nursing, University of Texas–Houston Health Science Center, School of Nursing, and Director of Applied Nursing Research, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
    Search for more papers by this author

  • The authors gratefully acknowledge the critique by Sharon K. Ostwald, RN, PhD, Director, Center on Aging and the Isla Carroll Turner Chair in Gerontological Nursing, University of Texas-Houston, Health Science Center, School of Nursing.

Ms. Vellone, Padre Monti Ward, S. Carlo Hospital, via Aurelia 275, 00165 Rome, Italy. E-mail:


Purpose: To obtain a more complete understanding of the experience of Italian caregivers of people with Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

Design and Methods: In this phenomenological study of AD Italian caregivers, the participants were 26 family caregivers (6 men and 20 women, of whom 19 were spouses and 7 were children).

Findings: Six themes were identified in this analysis: changes in relationships, changes in lifestyle, difficulties in caring, hopes and fears for the future, family duty, and respectful treatment. Caregivers experienced profound changes in their lives, including changes in their relationships with patients, in their lifestyles, and in their relationships with other family members. Caregivers experienced difficulties in caring because of their lack of knowledge about the illness and the lack of support from the National Health System. Participants hoped to not see their loved ones' conditions worsen and hoped to see positive results from prescription medications. Moreover, they hoped that God would help them go on. Some caregivers feared that the illness was hereditary and that they would not be able to cope with it. The Italian caregivers' respectful treatment of the patients demonstrated their profound sense of family duty, which included encouraging the patients to do self-care and occupational activities.

Conclusions: Similarities and differences among Italian caregivers and those in other countries are discussed, and implications for Italian health professionals and directions for future research are addressed.