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Ten women and eight men who were caring for their demented husbands or wives participated in a closed-group counselling programme, developed and carried out by two district nurses at a local health centre. There were seven or eight participants in each group, which met 13-14 times over a period of 8 months. This study is based on semistructured interviews about the participants' situation just before entering the counselling group, the counselling programme itself, and their situation after the end of the programme. Their situations before the programmes were described as an exhausting, chaotic prison but after the programme they could cope with their situation and plan and manage their daily life. None of the participants needed further organised counselling; engagement in the local dementia association was sufficient for them. The counselling nurses' experience in and about caring for demented patients, their tactful authority, the closed groups and the long duration of the programme were judged to be crucial for the successful outcome of the programme.