They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. The name “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s increasingly common. For caretakers, this implies spending a lot of time considering Mom or Dad’s total care.
You probably won’t have a problem remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What falls through the cracks, though, are things such as the annual exam with a hearing care professional or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Value of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, outside of your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to numerous physical and mental health concerns, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you might be unknowingly increasing the risk that she will develop these problems by missing 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.
When hearing loss first begins, this type of social isolation can occur very rapidly. You may think that mom is experiencing mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in fact, that may not be the issue. It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced separation can itself eventually lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and making certain those signs are treated, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You recognize that hearing loss can snowball into more serious problems and hearing health is important. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you observe the television getting a bit louder every week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make certain they keep them charged when they go to sleep every night. If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- Anyone over 55 should be undergoing a hearing test every year or so. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such an exam.
- 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.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids operate at their maximum capacity when they are used consistently.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
You’re already dealing with a lot, particularly if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing immediate issues, it can seem somewhat insignificant. But the research is fairly clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious problems in the long run.
So by making sure those hearing appointments are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical conditions later. You could block depression before it begins. You may even be able to reduce Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near-term future.
That would be worth a trip to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she should 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. Perhaps over sandwiches.