It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You go through your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The label “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between caring for 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 healthcare.
You probably won’t have an issue 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 sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. 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. Additionally, your hearing is essential in a way that goes beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health concerns have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So when you miss Mom’s hearing appointment, you could be unknowingly 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 separation can happen very quickly when hearing loss sets in. So if you observe Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing could be the real issue. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used regularly so this type of social separation can result in 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 have no doubt that hearing is important and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other issues. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you observe the television getting a bit louder every week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can pinpoint a problem.
- 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 sleep each night. If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- Once every year, people over 55 should have a hearing test. Be sure that this yearly appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids daily. Daily hearing aid use can help make sure that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel relatively insignificant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research shows that a whole variety of more significant future health problems can be avoided by treating hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing expensive medical conditions in the future. Perhaps you will stop depression early. You might even be able to lower Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near future.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s definitely worth a quick reminder to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.