It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. When you’re in your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare requirements occupies your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. The term “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s becoming a lot more common. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s general healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
You most likely won’t have a problem 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 like the yearly exam with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Significance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health problems have been linked to neglected hearing loss.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing appointment, you may be unintentionally 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 type of social isolation can take place very quickly when hearing loss starts. You might think that mom is experiencing mood issues because she is acting a little distant but in reality, that might not be the problem. It may be her hearing. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and making sure those signs are addressed, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Alright, you’re convinced. You have no doubt that hearing is essential and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. How can you make sure hearing care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you notice the television getting a little louder each week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- Every day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids operate at their greatest capacity when they are worn consistently.
- 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.
- Anybody over 55 needs to have a hearing test annually. Be certain that this annual appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in scenarios where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to pay attention to this each night.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem somewhat unimportant. But the research reveals that a wide variety of more serious future health issues can be prevented by managing hearing loss now.
So when you take Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly conditions in the future. You could block depression before it begins. It’s even possible that dementia can be prevented 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 should be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.