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Deliver us from evil: carer burden in Alzheimer's disease
  1. Martina Zimmermann
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martina Zimmermann, Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, Biocentre N260, Max-von-Laue Str 9, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany; martina.zimmermann{at}


Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder in today's developed world that is also increasingly picked out as a focal theme in fictional literature. In dealing with the subjectivity of human experience, such literature enhances the reader's empathy and is able to teach about moral, emotional and philosophical issues, offering the chance to see situations from a position otherwise possibly never taken by the reader. The understanding and insight so gained may well be unscientific, but the literary approach offers an insight into the whole person's perspective and the particularity and uniqueness of a situation that includes ethical conflicts. A key motif of fictional literature centred around dementia remains the burden the adult-child carer is confronted with, considering the parent's remorseless decline and personality change, the sudden demand for devoted and continuous care, and the constantly changing relationship with the declining parent. In the context of an ever increasing demand for a constructive public discussion regarding end-of-life treatment of demented patients, Christine Devars (Le Piano Désaccordé) and Andrés Barba (Ahora Tocad Música de Baile) illustrate how powerful and burdensome the impact of Alzheimer's disease is on both patient and carer and what extremes may be reached under such truly exceptional circumstances.

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • carer burden
  • euthanasia
  • fiction
  • science
  • creative writing
  • literature and medicine
  • medical ethics/bioethics
  • end of life care
  • mental healthcare

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.