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 in your forties and fifties. The label “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for 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 likely won’t have any difficulty 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 yearly exam with a hearing specialist or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
The Significance 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, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you might be unknowingly increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by missing her hearing exam. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first begins, this sort of social isolation can happen very rapidly. So if you notice Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it may not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are addressed, is essential when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You have no doubt that hearing is relevant and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other problems. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you observe the television getting a bit louder each week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Anyone over the age of 55 or 60 should be undergoing a hearing screening every year or so. Be sure that this yearly appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in scenarios where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to pay attention to this each night.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, notably if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel rather unimportant if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the research shows that a whole variety of more significant future health concerns can be avoided by treating hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical problems in the future. Maybe you will stop depression early. You may even be able to lower Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near future.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent 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.