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The purpose of this thesis is to bring more attention to "family caregivers," or those who provide unpaid assistance to sick or aging relatives, often to the detriment of their own physical and mental health. More than 30 million family, or "informal," caregivers are responsible for the care of elderly spouses, siblings and parents - many of whom have Alzheimer's disease or another dementing illness - and the size of this caregiving population is about to increase as life expectancy increases and baby boomers age. This thesis assesses the literature and media coverage published heretofore on the subject of informal caregiving in America, and, through a seri es of five family profiles and an article on a local respite program, adds to the growing body of literature on this significant national issue.