They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re arranging the healthcare of your senior parents. The name “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s increasingly common. For caretakers, this means investing a lot of time thinking about Mom or Dad’s all-around healthcare.
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 is sometimes missed, though, are things like the annual exam with a hearing specialist or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can have a profound impact.
Hearing Health is Crucial For a Senior’s Overall 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 goes beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to numerous mental and physical health issues, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unwittingly increasing her risk of developing these issues, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This kind of social isolation can happen very quickly after hearing loss sets in. So if you observe Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing might be the real difficulty. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used on a regular basis so this kind of social solitude can result in cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s crucial that those signs are identified and addressed.
How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You recognize that hearing loss can snowball into more severe issues and hearing health is essential. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- 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.
- Anybody over 55 needs to have a hearing screening every year or so. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids operate at their greatest capacity when they are worn regularly.
- Help your parents remember 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 pay attention to this each night.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you observe the television getting a bit louder every week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues 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 impairment isn’t causing immediate issues, it can seem a little trivial. But the research reveals that a whole variety of more serious future health issues can be prevented by dealing with hearing loss now.
So by making certain those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical conditions later. You could block depression before it starts. You might even be able to decrease Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s certainly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.