It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare requirements occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The term “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s more and more common. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time thinking about Mom or Dad’s all-around healthcare.
You most likely won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged or going to the yearly hearing exam can sometimes just slip through the cracks. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. What’s more, your hearing is crucial in a way that goes beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health issues have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing appointment, you might be unwittingly increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This sort of social isolation can happen very quickly after hearing loss begins. You may think that mom is having mood problems because she is acting a bit distant but in fact, that may not be the problem. It could be her hearing. And that hearing-induced separation can itself ultimately result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are treated, is essential when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is relevant and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. How can you make sure hearing care is a priority?
A couple of things that you can do are as follows:
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids operate at their maximum capacity when they are used regularly.
- Anybody over 55 should be undergoing a hearing test every year or so. Make certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in scenarios where their devices are rechargeable). If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- 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.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. 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.
Avoiding Future Health Problems
You’re already trying to handle a lot, particularly if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing direct problems, it can seem somewhat trivial. But the research is fairly clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can protect against a multitude of serious problems in the long run.
So by making certain those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical problems later. You could head off depression before it begins. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed.
For most of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. You also may be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.