They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The label “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s increasingly common. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You probably won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged or making the yearly hearing test can sometimes just slip through the cracks. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Value of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. What’s more, your hearing is essential in a way that goes beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music. Neglected hearing loss has been connected to numerous mental and physical health concerns, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you might be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by skipping her hearing exam. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This sort of social isolation can happen very quickly when hearing loss starts. You might think that mom is experiencing mood issues because she is acting a bit distant but in reality, that may not be the issue. It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Make Sure Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe problems and hearing health is essential. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Every day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Daily hearing aid use can help make sure 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.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in cases where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Once per year, people over 55 should have a hearing screening. Make certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you observe the television getting a bit louder every week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
Making Sure 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 issues can feel somewhat trivial if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research shows that a wide variety of more significant future health concerns can be avoided by treating hearing loss now.
So when you take Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions later on. You could head off depression before it starts. 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 visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be conscientious 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.