They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare requirements fills your time when you’re going through 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. For caretakers, this implies investing a lot of time contemplating Mom or Dad’s total healthcare.
Scheduling an appointment for Dad to go to an oncologist or a cardiologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. What is sometimes missed, though, are things such as the annual appointment with a hearing specialist or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a big 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. Additionally, your hearing is essential in a way that goes beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to several physical and mental health issues, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing appointment, you might be unintentionally increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This type of social separation can happen very quickly after hearing loss begins. So if you notice Mom beginning to get a little distant, it may not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing might be the real difficulty. And that hearing-induced separation can itself ultimately lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You recognize that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious problems and hearing health is essential. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Once every year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing screening. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Keep an eye on 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.
- 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.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in scenarios where they have rechargeable batteries). If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are operating to their maximum capacity.
Making Certain 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 hearing issues can feel somewhat trivial if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the evidence is pretty clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious issues over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly conditions in the future. You could head off depression before it starts. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed.
For many of us, that’s worth a trip 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. 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.