This study examined the role of two perceptual variables in predicting the development of depressive symptoms in caregivers. The first, boundary ambiguity, refers to whether the dementia patient is perceived as psychologically in or out of the family system. The second, an orientation toward mastery, is related to how persons manage various stressful situations, including caring for a dementia patient. This study included 70 patients and their caregivers. Stepwise regression and path analytic techniques were used to compare the impact of variables related to the illness per se and of variables related to caregivers' perceptions of their situations. Results indicate that both perceptual variables, boundary ambiguity, and mastery, are significantly related to a caregiver's depression level whereas severity of the patient's dementia is not. In sum, the more a caregiver perceives a mate as psychologically absent, the less masterful and the more depressed she or he is.