It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The name “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s becoming a lot more common. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s total healthcare.
Making 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 including the yearly appointment with a hearing specialist or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a big difference.
The Value of Hearing For a Senior’s 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 crucial to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to several physical and mental health problems, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unwittingly increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t able to hear as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This sort of social separation can happen very quickly after hearing loss starts. You might think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a bit distant but in reality, that may not be the problem. Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are treated, is essential when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other concerns. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Once per year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing screening. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. If you observe the TV getting a little louder each week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Daily hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
- 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.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where their devices are rechargeable). If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
Combating Future Health Problems
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel relatively unimportant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research is quite clear: treating hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious issues in the long run.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions down the road. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be stopped or at least slowed.
For many of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, also. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.