They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re setting up the care of your senior parents. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s more and more common. For caretakers, this means investing a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s overall care.
You likely won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are recharged or going to the annual hearing assessment can sometimes simply slip through the cracks. And those little things can have a profound affect.
Hearing Health is Crucial For a Senior’s Total Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. In addition, your hearing is crucial in a way that transcends your ability to communicate or listen to music. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health issues have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So you could be inadvertently increasing the chances that she will develop these issues by missing her hearing exam. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This sort of social separation can happen very quickly when hearing loss starts. So if you observe Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it may not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually result in 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 crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe problems and hearing health is important. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- 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.
- Once per year, people over 55 should have a hearing exam. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in situations where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Hearing aids operate at their optimal capacity when they are used consistently.
- 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Avoided
You’re already dealing with a lot, particularly if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And hearing troubles can feel rather trivial if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research reveals that a whole variety of more severe future health concerns can be avoided by managing hearing loss now.
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 block depression before it begins. You might even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For the majority 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 diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, also. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.