They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re setting up the care of your senior parents. The term “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s becoming more and more common. This means that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
Setting up an appointment for Dad to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. But things like making certain Mom’s hearing aids are recharged or making the annual hearing assessment can sometimes simply slip through the cracks. And those little things can have a profound impact.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health problems have been connected to untreated hearing loss.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing exam, you may be unintentionally increasing her chances of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t able to hear as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first sets in, this type of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you observe Mom beginning to get a little distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing could be the real difficulty. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used on a regular basis so this type of social isolation can lead to cognitive decline. So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are treated, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
How to Make Sure Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You have no doubt that hearing is essential and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other issues. How can you make sure hearing care is a priority?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Once every year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing test. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such an exam.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Consistent hearing aid use can help make sure that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. 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 to not forget to charge their hearing aids every 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.
- 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
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 loss isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem somewhat unimportant. But the research is fairly clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can protect against a multitude of serious problems over time.
So when you take Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly ailments down the road. Perhaps you will stop depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed down.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a visit 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 diligently. You also may be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.