It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare requirements occupies your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s becoming a lot more common. For caretakers, this means investing a lot of time contemplating Mom or Dad’s overall healthcare.
You probably won’t have an issue remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What is sometimes missed, though, are things including the yearly appointment with a hearing care professional or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a huge difference.
Hearing Health is Important For a Senior’s Total Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, outside of your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to several mental and physical health problems, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing appointment, you might be unknowingly increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first sets in, this sort of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you notice Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing may be the real problem. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used regularly so this kind of social solitude can lead to cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are recognized and addressed.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You recognize that hearing loss can snowball into more serious problems and hearing health is essential. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids daily. Hearing aids work at their maximum capacity when they are worn consistently.
- 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. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make sure they keep them charged when they go to sleep every night. If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to do this.
- Anybody over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing screening every year or so. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such an exam.
Preventing Future Health Issues
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem a little insignificant. But the evidence is pretty clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious problems in the long run.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly ailments in the future. Maybe you will stop depression early. You might even be able to lower Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. You also might be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.