It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare requirements fills your time when you’re going through 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 becoming increasingly prevalent. This means that Mom and Dad’s general care will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You most likely won’t have a problem remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making certain Dad’s hearing aids are recharged or going to the annual hearing assessment can sometimes just slip through the cracks. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Significance of Hearing to Senior 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 essential to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to numerous mental and physical health problems, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing exam, you could be unwittingly increasing her chances of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t hearing 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 happen very quickly. You may think that mom is experiencing mood problems because she is acting a little bit distant but in actuality, that may not be the problem. It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are addressed, is essential when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Make Sure Hearing is a Priority
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is important and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other issues. How can you make sure hearing care is a priority?
There are a few things you can do:
- Once per year, people over 55 should have a hearing screening. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
- Pay attention to how your parents are behaving. If you observe the TV getting a bit louder each week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- If your parents have rechargeable hearing aids help them make sure they keep them charged when they go to bed every night. If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Hearing aids operate at their greatest capacity when they are worn regularly.
Combating Future Health Issues
You’re already trying to handle a lot, specifically if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel rather trivial if they aren’t causing immediate friction. But the research reveals that a whole range of more significant future health issues can be avoided by dealing with hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing tests are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding costly medical problems in the future. Maybe you will avoid depression early. You might even be able to reduce Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near future.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s simple 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, also. Maybe over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.