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OBJECTIVES: To develop a typography of the characteristics of caregivers of community dwelling people with dementia or memory loss who do not use services and empirically investigate the reasons for service non-use. METHOD: The findings of a literature review were used to develop a typography of caregivers' non-use of services. This typography was applied to a sample of community-based caregivers. RESULTS: One in three caregivers were using no services and one in four only one service. Despite considerable proportions reporting low levels of life satisfaction and high levels of overload and resentment the main reasons caregivers gave for not using services were that they did not consider they needed the services. Other reasons for service non-use included care recipient reluctance to use services, lack of knowledge of services or being in the process of applying for services. Service availability or affordability were not identified as major impediments to service use. Presence of a physical disability and contact with a social worker were associated with service use. CONCLUSIONS: Caregivers of people with dementia incur significant strain and have substantial need for a variety of services. Nevertheless many caregivers were not using support services, mainly because of perceived lack of need or lack of awareness. Better public promotion of services, destigmatising dementia and encouraging referrals from health professionals could help overcome the barriers to service use.