They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare requirements occupies your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. The term “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s becoming a lot more prevalent. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s overall healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You 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 making the yearly hearing exam can sometimes simply slip through the cracks. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Importance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health problems have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So you might be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these issues by missing her hearing appointment. If Mom isn’t able to hear as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first sets in, this sort of social isolation can occur very quickly. You may think that mom is experiencing mood issues because she is acting a bit distant but in fact, that might not be the issue. It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and making sure those signs are treated, is essential when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is relevant and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other concerns. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. If you observe the TV getting a little louder each week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are working to their highest 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.
- Anyone over 55 needs to have a hearing screening yearly. Be sure 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 situations where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
Avoiding Future Health Issues
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, notably if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing troubles can feel somewhat unimportant if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research is fairly clear: treating hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious issues over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly afflictions down the road. Perhaps you will stop depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed down.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s definitely worth a quick reminder to Mom that she should be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. You also might be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.