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Keywords:

  • Alzheimer's disease;
  • Italian family caregivers;
  • relationships;
  • caring;
  • family;
  • hope;
  • fear

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.