They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare requirements fills your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
Setting up an appointment for Dad to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged or making the annual hearing exam can sometimes just fall through the cracks. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
Hearing Health is Important For a Senior’s General Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to numerous mental and physical health problems, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you could be inadvertently increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by skipping 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.
This type of social separation can happen very quickly when hearing loss begins. You might think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in reality, that may not be the issue. It could be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used on a regular basis so this kind of social isolation can lead to cognitive decline. So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is relevant and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other issues. How can you make sure ear care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Once every year, individuals over the age of 55 should have a hearing test. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such an exam.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids operate at their maximum capacity when they are used consistently.
- Help your parents remember 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 check 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Prevented
You’re already trying to handle a lot, particularly if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing direct problems, it can seem a little insignificant. But the evidence is quite clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious issues over time.
So by making sure those hearing appointments are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding expensive medical problems later. Maybe you will avoid depression early. It’s even possible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed down.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s definitely worth a quick heads up to Mom that she should be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, also. Maybe you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.