It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s coordinating the healthcare of your senior parents. The name “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s increasingly common. This implies that Mom and Dad’s general care will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
Scheduling an appointment for Dad to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged or going to the annual hearing exam can sometimes simply slip through the cracks. And those little things can make a huge difference.
Hearing Health is Important For a Senior’s Total Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s essential to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health problems have been connected to untreated hearing loss.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing appointment, you may be unintentionally increasing her chances of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first sets in, this type of social isolation can occur very quickly. You might think that mom is experiencing mood problems because she is acting a little bit distant but in actuality, that may not be the problem. Her hearing may be the real difficulty. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are treated, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You appreciate that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe issues and hearing health is important. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If your parent is having trouble hearing you when you talk to them or seems to be turning the TV up louder and louder, encourage them to make an appointment for a hearing test.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make sure they charge them when they go to bed every night. If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Anyone over 55 should be undergoing a hearing test annually. Be certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
Combating Future Health Issues
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel rather unimportant if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the evidence is pretty clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious problems in the long run.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly afflictions later on. You could head off depression before it starts. It’s even feasible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed down.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s undoubtedly worth a quick heads up to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, also. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.