It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare requirements occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The term “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 thinking about Mom or Dad’s overall healthcare.
Setting up 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 certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged or going to the yearly hearing exam can sometimes just fall 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 listen to music or communicate. Neglected hearing loss has been connected to numerous physical and mental health issues, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you may be unknowingly increasing the risk 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 type of social isolation can occur very quickly when hearing loss begins. So if you notice Mom starting to get a little distant, it may not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing may be the real problem. And that hearing-induced separation can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s important that those signs are identified and treated.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You recognize that hearing loss can snowball into more severe issues and hearing health is essential. How can you make sure hearing care is a priority?
There are a few things you can do:
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in cases where their devices are rechargeable). 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.
- If you notice Mom avoiding phone conversations and staying away from social situations, the same is true. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Anybody over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing exam yearly. Make certain that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids function at their optimal capacity when they are worn consistently.
Preventing Future Health Issues
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem slightly unimportant. But the research shows that a wide variety of more significant future health problems can be avoided by managing hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding expensive medical problems later. Perhaps you will stop depression early. You might even be able to reduce Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near future.
For many of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.