They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. 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 becoming increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s general care will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
Setting up an appointment for Mom to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you aren’t likely to forget anything like that. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged or making the annual hearing test can sometimes just slip through the cracks. And those little things can have a profound affect.
The Value of Hearing to Senior 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 crucial to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to several physical and mental health problems, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you may be unknowingly increasing the risk that she will develop these issues by skipping her hearing exam. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first starts, this kind of social isolation can take place very quickly. You might think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little distant but in actuality, that might not be the problem. It may be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually result in 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 addressed, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Alright, you’re convinced. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe problems and hearing health is significant. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in cases where they have rechargeable batteries). If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you observe the television getting a bit louder every week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can pinpoint a problem.
- Once per year, people over 55 should have a hearing test. Be certain that this annual appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Every day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their highest capacity.
- If you notice Mom avoiding phone conversations and staying away from social situations, the same is true. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel rather trivial if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the research shows that a wide range of more serious future health issues can be avoided by dealing with hearing loss now.
So by making certain those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical conditions later. Maybe you will avoid depression early. It’s even possible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed down.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, also. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.