They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re organizing the care of your senior parents. The label “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s becoming a lot more prevalent. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s overall healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You likely won’t have an issue remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What falls through the cracks, though, are things like the yearly checkup with a hearing care professional or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a big difference.
Hearing Health is Important For a Senior’s General Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Additionally, your hearing is crucial in a way that transcends your ability to communicate or listen to music. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to numerous mental and physical health concerns, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you may be unknowingly 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.
This type of social separation can happen very quickly after hearing loss sets in. You might think that mom is having mood problems because she is acting a little distant but in fact, that may not be the issue. Her hearing could be the real difficulty. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s crucial that those signs are identified and addressed.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You appreciate that hearing loss can snowball into more severe issues and hearing health is essential. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
There are a few things you can do:
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. If you observe the TV getting a little louder every week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can pinpoint a problem.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to check this every night.
- If you notice Mom avoiding phone conversations and staying away from social situations, the same is true. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Once per year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing test. Be sure that this yearly appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
Avoiding Future Health Problems
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, notably if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem a little unimportant. But the research 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 exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly conditions down the road. You could head off depression before it begins. It’s even feasible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed.
That would be worth a trip 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, too. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.