They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare requirements occupies your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. The name “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s increasingly common. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s overall healthcare.
Making 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. What falls through the cracks, though, are things such as the annual checkup with a hearing care professional or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Value of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, outside of your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health concerns have been linked to neglected hearing loss.
So you could be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by missing her hearing appointment. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first sets in, this type of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you observe Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing might be the real difficulty. And that hearing-induced separation can itself ultimately bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are treated, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is relevant and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other problems. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Consistent hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you notice the TV getting a bit louder each week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Once every year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing screening. Be sure that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
Avoiding Future Health Problems
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing troubles can feel somewhat trivial if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the research demonstrates that a whole variety of more severe future health concerns can be prevented by dealing with hearing loss now.
So when you take Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly ailments down the road. Maybe you will stop depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.