It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. In your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The name “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of 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.
Making an appointment for Dad 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 specialist or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Importance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. In addition, your hearing is essential in a way that transcends your ability to listen to music or communicate. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health issues have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So you may be inadvertently 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 sets in, this type of social isolation can take place very quickly. You may think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in fact, that might not be the problem. It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are recognized and addressed.
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You appreciate that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious issues and hearing health is important. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Anyone over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing exam every year or so. Be certain that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- 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.
- Every day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids work at their maximum capacity when they are worn consistently.
- Look closely at 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.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in cases where they have rechargeable batteries). If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to do this.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Prevented
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate issues, it can seem slightly unimportant. But the research shows that a whole variety of more serious future health issues can be avoided 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 afflictions down the road. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. You may even be able to lower Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near future.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s definitely worth a quick heads up to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. You also may be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.