It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You go through your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s increasingly common. This implies that Mom and Dad’s general healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
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. What is sometimes missed, though, are things such as the annual appointment with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can have a profound affect.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. In addition, your hearing is essential in a way that goes beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate. Neglected hearing loss has been connected to several mental and physical health issues, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you could be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by missing her hearing exam. 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 starts, this type of social isolation can happen very quickly. You might think that mom is experiencing mood problems because she is acting a little distant but in reality, that may not be the problem. It could be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself ultimately result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are addressed, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is relevant and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. 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.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in scenarios where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Hearing aids function at their maximum capacity when they are used regularly.
- 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 test every year or so. Make certain that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
Making Certain That Future Health Concerns Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And hearing problems can feel rather trivial if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the research shows that a wide range of more significant future health problems can be avoided by dealing with hearing loss now.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly conditions later on. You could block depression before it starts. 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 simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, also. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.