They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties raising your kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, hence the name. And it’s becoming increasingly common. This implies that Mom and Dad’s overall care will need to be considered by caretakers.
Scheduling an appointment for Mom to go to a cardiologist or an oncologist feels like a priority, so you aren’t likely to forget anything like that. What falls through the cracks, though, are things including the yearly checkup with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can have a profound impact.
The Significance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Furthermore, beyond your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health problems have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing appointment, you could be unintentionally increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This sort of social isolation can occur very quickly after hearing loss starts. You might think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in actuality, that may not be the issue. Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately result in cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). So identifying 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 Certain Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is important and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Anyone over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing screening yearly. Be sure that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you observe the TV getting a bit louder every week or that they are having difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- Each day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids work at their maximum capacity when they are used consistently.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make sure they charge them when they go to sleep every night. If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
- 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.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, notably if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem slightly unimportant. But the research is quite clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious issues over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be avoiding much more costly afflictions down the road. You could block depression before it begins. You may even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.