Alzheimers Murder Raises Light on Caregiver Stress

HANS-ULRICH OSTERWALDER/Getty Images(BISMARCK, N.D.) -- David Winter bashed his elderly father's head more than 40 times with a flashlight and stabbed him at least a dozen times with a letter opener.

His father, Lawrence, had Alzheimer's and Winter was his sole caregiver.

The odd hours Lawrence Winter would roam around the house, due to the body clock changes that occur in Alzheimer's, became too much for his son to handle.

David Winter awoke on March 30, 2011, at 6:30 a.m. and found his father making tomato soup. After putting his father back to bed, he snapped.

Winter, who has a developmental disability, did not have a criminal record and told a judge at sentencing that he loved his father and misses him every day.

"I'm not an evil person," Winter said, according to the Bismarck Tribune. "I just had more than I could handle."

Although Winter's case is extreme, an estimated 44 million caregivers in the United States face a tremendous burden that often times causes them to crack when they least expect it. Somewhere between 30 percent to 40 percent of dementia caregivers suffer from depression and emotional stress, according to a 2003 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

"The stress of caring for someone 24 hours a day would drive people to do things they would never do," said Marlo Sollitto, an editor at Aging Care, an online support community for caregivers. "We've seen posts from people who say, 'Help, I can't do this anymore.' We have heard people say 'I want to kill my mother'. "

Winter's case underscores the need for people caring for a loved one to reach out for help, said Krista Headland, a spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Association in North Dakota.

Winter was sentenced to 18 years in prison Tuesday for his admitted role in his father's death.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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