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Some 12% of all geriatric admissions to University College Hospital and Whittington Hospital are for patients whose relatives or friends can no longer cope with them at home. The person principally involved with home support was interviewed in 50 such cases. The causes of inability to cope were identified on a quantitative and qualitative basis. The supporters were asked to assess which of the problems identified would have to be alleviated to restore a tolerable situation at home; 46 (92%) were able to do so. Identification of the "alleviation factors" forms a therapeutic and prognostic guideline in this type of admission and may have far-reaching social and economic implications.