PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) Pamela Hill's mother, Bettie, has Alzheimer's, a disease that, in its most literal terms, affects one person. But if you look closer, the diagnosis has another victim: The caretaker.
She is one of the millions of caregivers providing innumerable hours of unpaid care for their loved ones, a number that amounted to over 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2014, valued at $217.7 billion. With other family members out of state, it's a role she's served on her own since her mother's diagnosis at 68 years-old in 2011.
"When I first started doing this caregiving thing, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake," Hill said.. "I thought you know what, my mom needs to be taken care of, we're just going to do our thing. Believe it or not, it's a stressful job. She needs to be told that you need to brush your teeth, you need to get a bath. Basically she needs to be told a lot to do things that normal folks would know how to do on a daily basis.
Statistics show a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of alzheimer's caregivers rating their stress as high or very high; and about 40 percent suffering from depression,
Many, like Pamela, have had to readjust their busy work schedules and take on a new kind of work-life balance. One that can be overwhelming.
"Sometimes we do need a break, we probably won't tell you we need a break, until it gets too bad," she said.
Despite the odds, Pamela strives to keep a good attitude
"I just feel like I need to stay positive and be happy for her," she said.
Though there is one thing she wishes more people were aware of.
"I just want to let folks know to always ask how the caregiver is, and ask what you can do to help them, to make things a little easier," she said.