They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, caring for 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, hence the name. And it’s becoming increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
You likely 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 like the yearly checkup with a hearing care professional or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
The Value of Hearing to Senior 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 crucial to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to numerous physical and mental health issues, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing appointment, you may be unintentionally increasing her risk of developing these issues, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first starts, this sort of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you observe Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). Her hearing may be the real issue. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used regularly so this type of social separation can result in cognitive decline. So recognizing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those signs are treated, is essential when it comes to your senior parents’ physical and mental health.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is important and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other problems. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you notice the TV getting a little louder every week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about making an appointment with a hearing specialist to see 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 sleep each night. If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- If you notice Mom avoiding phone conversations and staying away from social situations, the same is true. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
- Anybody over the age of 55 or 60 should be undergoing a hearing exam yearly. Be certain that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Every day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Daily hearing aid use can help make sure that these devices are working to their highest capacity.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
As a caregiver, you already have plenty to deal with, notably if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem somewhat trivial. But the evidence is quite clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious problems in the long run.
So when you take Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions in the future. You could block depression before it starts. You might even be able to reduce Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near-term future.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s simple to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be diligent 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.