It’s known as the “sandwich generation”. When you’re in your twenties and thirties, your time is spent raising kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills 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 increasingly common. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s overall care will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You likely won’t have an issue remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making sure Mom’s hearing aids are recharged or going to the annual hearing test can sometimes simply fall through the cracks. And those little things can make a huge difference.
The Importance of Hearing For a Senior’s Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. What’s more, your hearing is crucial in a way that transcends your ability to communicate or listen to music. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health concerns have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So you may be unintentionally increasing the risk that she will develop these problems by skipping her hearing appointment. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This type of social separation can take place very quickly when hearing loss begins. So if you notice Mom starting to get a bit distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually 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 sure those signs are addressed, is crucial when dealing with your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe problems and hearing health is important. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- 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.
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. If you notice the television getting a little louder every week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids function at their greatest capacity when they are worn consistently.
- Anybody over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing exam every year or so. Be certain that this yearly appointment is scheduled for your parents and kept.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in cases where their devices are rechargeable). If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Prevented
You’re already trying to handle a lot, particularly if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And hearing issues can feel relatively trivial if they aren’t causing direct friction. But the research demonstrates that a wide variety of more serious future health concerns can be prevented by treating hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing tests are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding expensive medical conditions in the future. You could head off depression before it begins. It’s even feasible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for most people. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.