As a mental health professional and dementia educator, I am heartbroken over the death of Karin Moller.

This letter is not to fault anyone for this tragedy, especially members of law enforcement, who were placed into a no-win situation. The question is not what happened on that day; the question is: What happened leading up to that day?

There was mention that Moller cared for her mother until her death from Alzheimer’s, and that her father was recently diagnosed with this same disease (“Woman killed by police had said she wanted to be shot,” Dec. 11). Moller may have had some history of being mentally unstable, but did she have a therapist who understood dementia and all this entails?

I don’t know Moller’s mental health history. What I do know is that statistically, caregivers of people with any kind of dementia-causing illness experience a significantly higher incidence of depression and anxiety than non-caregivers.

This is not necessarily a reflection of personal pathology. This can be a result of living with an extraordinary environmental stressor – one that inevitably increases over time, eventually becoming 24/7. Living with this level of stress can lead to despair and hopelessness.

Imagine the anguish of attending to the intimate daily care needs of someone you love who is no longer who they were and who may no longer even recognize you. Even if they are able to access assistance with care, caregivers are often left feeling isolated and overwhelmed.

This is a systemic problem, and as our population ages and more people struggle with dementia, we will need to identify more effective ways to support both the people living with the diagnosis, and all the unpaid family members who are living with the daily emotional experience of frustration, fatigue, loss and grief that the lengthy journey of caregiving may be.

Kate Cole Fallon

Portland