It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. When you’re in your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s setting up the healthcare 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 increasingly common. For caretakers, this implies spending a lot of time contemplating Mom or Dad’s overall care.
Scheduling 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. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged or making the yearly hearing test can sometimes simply fall through the cracks. And those little things can make a huge difference.
Hearing Health is Important For a Senior’s Overall 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 listen to music or communicate. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health concerns have been connected to untreated hearing loss.
So you might be inadvertently increasing the chances that she will develop these issues by missing her hearing appointment. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This sort of social isolation can occur very quickly when hearing loss starts. You might think that mom is experiencing mood problems because she is acting a little distant but in fact, that may not be the problem. Her hearing may be the real problem. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used regularly so this type of social separation can lead to cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are identified and addressed.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You appreciate that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe problems and hearing health is essential. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Anybody over 55 should be undergoing a hearing screening every year or so. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in cases where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to pay attention to this every night.
- Pay attention to 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.
- Every day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Hearing aids work at their greatest capacity when they are worn regularly.
- 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
You’re already trying to handle a lot, specifically if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing troubles can feel somewhat insignificant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research is fairly clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious problems over time.
So when you take Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly ailments later on. You could head off depression before it starts. 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 undoubtedly worth a quick heads up to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.