They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re setting up the healthcare of your senior parents. The name “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s becoming increasingly prevalent. For caretakers, this means spending a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s total care.
Scheduling an appointment for Mom to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. What falls through the cracks, though, are things like the yearly appointment with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Value 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. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to several physical and mental health concerns, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you may be inadvertently increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by skipping her hearing exam. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first starts, this sort of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you observe Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). It might be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used regularly so this type of social isolation can lead to cognitive decline. So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are treated, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You appreciate that hearing loss can snowball into more severe issues and hearing health is significant. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- 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.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make certain they keep them charged when they go to sleep every night. If they are living in a home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you notice the television getting a bit louder every week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are operating to their highest capacity.
- Once every year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing exam. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
You’re already dealing with a lot, specifically if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem a little insignificant. But the research demonstrates that a whole variety of more significant future health issues can be prevented by managing hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing tests are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding costly medical conditions later. You could block depression before it starts. It’s even feasible that dementia can be stopped or at least slowed down.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s certainly worth a quick heads up to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. You also might be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.