They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare requirements fills your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The name “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s general care will need to be considered by caretakers.
Scheduling an appointment for Dad to go to an oncologist or a cardiologist feels like a priority, so you aren’t likely to forget anything like that. What is sometimes missed, though, are things like the annual appointment with a hearing care professional or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior 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 communicate or listen to music. Neglected hearing loss has been connected to numerous physical and mental health problems, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you may be unknowingly increasing the risk 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.
This kind of social separation can occur very quickly after hearing loss starts. So if you notice Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing could be the real issue. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used regularly so this kind of social separation can result in cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s crucial that those signs are identified and treated.
Alright, you’re convinced. You have no doubt that hearing is important and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other problems. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Every day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make sure they charge them when they go to sleep every night. 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 little louder each week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.
- Once every year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing test. Be certain that this annual appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- 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.
Preventing Future Health Problems
You’re already trying to handle a lot, specifically if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel rather trivial if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the research shows that a whole range of more serious future health issues can be avoided by treating hearing loss now.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly conditions later on. Maybe you will avoid depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be stopped or at least slowed.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s certainly worth a quick heads up to Mom that she should 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.