They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s organizing the care of your senior parents. The term “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s becoming increasingly prevalent. For caretakers, this implies investing a lot of time thinking about Mom or Dad’s total healthcare.
You probably 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 such as the yearly checkup with a hearing specialist or making certain Dad’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. What’s more, your hearing is essential in a way that transcends your ability to communicate or listen to music. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to numerous physical and mental health concerns, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing exam, you may be unwittingly increasing her risk of developing these issues, 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 starts, this type of social isolation can happen very quickly. So if you notice Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it may not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing could be the real issue. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are treated, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You recognize that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious problems and hearing health is essential. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. If you notice the television getting a little louder every week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- Every day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Hearing aids function at their maximum capacity when they are worn regularly.
- Once per year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing test. Make sure 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. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make certain they keep them charged when they go to bed every night. If they are living in a home, ask the staff to check this every night.
Preventing Future Health Problems
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem a little trivial. But the research reveals that a wide variety of more severe future health concerns can be avoided by managing hearing loss now.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly ailments in the future. You could head off depression before it begins. It’s even possible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed down.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s undoubtedly worth a quick heads up to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.