By Dr. Jamie Huysman
LCSW, CFT

The rate of anxiety and depression, in boomers, seniors, and particularly caregivers, has gone undetected and is often ignored for far too long. Depression seems to be running rampant in society and the fact is that caregivers of the chronically ill are prone to grief and depression as a natural part of that journey. Current statistics support this. Grieving about the person they care for and the promise of an unknown future may lead to sleeplessness, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, fatigue, and many more.

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression and find support for those feelings. You’re not crazy, you’re human. We all have days when we don’t feel our best — that’s normal. But when days turn into weeks and months of doom and gloom, feeling overwhelmed and isolated, things will not get better. They will get worse. Give yourself permission to seek help. No one needs to live with anxiety or clinical depression; you do have a choice. You can do something about it. We have come far in dealing with it pharmaceutically (where necessary), psychosocially and through integrative medical practices.

See your doctor or take advantage of a free in person or online screening at HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.

Take some O2 and reclaim your spirit—you’re worth it. When you take care of your emotional health, you become an example of conscious self-care. As a caregiver, you have people depending on you, so you need to be able to depend on yourself. If no one told you they loved you today, I do!

By Carol Zernial
WellMed Charitable Foundation Executive Director

Have you ever considered what it would be like to be a Vulcan? Yes, I am talking about Mr. Spock’s planet of origin from the Star Trek series. I’ve been watching the entire The Big Bang series with my son the past few months, and they talk about Mr. Spock a lot. They even changed the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock. Don’t ask.

In any case, it has occurred to me that being a green-blooded Vulcan would absolutely benefit caregiving situations.

Logic: Vulcans don’t have human emotions that cloud clear-thinking and reason. It must be nice to be able to stand back, and make decisions that aren’t weighted with emotional baggage. Just the facts ma’am and I don’t care that you never loved me. For a Vulcan, anything less than the best decisions wouldn’t be logical.

No human emotions: The Vulcans can be a bit snooty on this, because emotions are sign of weakness and being less evolved. As a Vulcan, we caregivers wouldn’t have to carry around guilt, anger, fear, stress, depression and grief. What a relief. But we all know that love, laughter, and tenderness that are emotions that put us on the plus side of the caregiving experience. Perhaps we should agree to be like Mr. Spock on this one: half Vulcan and half human. Caregivers would have the best of both worlds if we only focused on the positive.

Vulcan nerve pinch (also known as the Vulcan death grip): I want this ability! It’s not really a death grip – it just puts people to sleep. If other relatives with all of their “helpful” advice or professionals who think I ask too many questions are giving me a hard time, I’d just pinch their neck, put them to sleep for a while, and walk over them to get some ice cream. Sweet. I’d also use it for those nights my loved one is up and about in the wee hours. A good night’s sleep is a thing of beauty.

Vulcan Mind Meld: Another must-have caregiver talent. Vulcans can put their hands on the face of someone else, say “my mind to your mind,” and they can read the other’s person’s thoughts. If you didn’t understand the doctor’s instructions, mind meld. If your spouse is still a complete mystery to you, mind meld. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s and you don’t know what they are saying, mind meld – but with extreme caution. (Many of us know what happened to Captain Picard and Spock’s dad who had Alzheimer’s.)

Super Strength: Vulcans are as strong as four men or ten men or something like that. Super strength is not only terrific for taking out the garbage, sweeping under automobiles, and getting Uncle Joe in the bathtub, we would still have energy left at the end of the day.

Vulcans work for the higher good of the many, not just the few or the one. They’re excellent with science and medicine, and a bonus on any landing party. Things just seem to be less complicated without all those pesky emotions. And they make loyal friends.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed being a caregiver, put on your Mr. Spock pointy ears and Starfleet shirt. Think clearly and recognize that negative emotions aren’t helping. Meld your mind to your loved one and see through his/her eyes. Put or visualize yourself putting a nerve pinch on those who are taking your energy and aren’t part of the solution. Be strong – and live long and prosper.

Carol Zernial is Executive Director of the nonprofit WellMed Charitable Foundation. A noted gerontologist, Ms. Zernial also serves as Chair of the National Council on Aging Board of Directors.