It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re arranging the healthcare of your senior parents. The term “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s more and more common. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s overall healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
Scheduling an appointment for Mom to go to an oncologist or a cardiologist feels like a priority, so you most likely won’t forget anything like that. What is sometimes missed, though, are things like the annual appointment with a hearing specialist or making sure Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can have a profound impact.
The Importance of Hearing to Senior 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 issues have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So you may be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these problems by missing her hearing exam. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
This kind of social isolation can happen very quickly after hearing loss begins. So if you observe Mom starting to get a little distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing may be the real issue. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself ultimately bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). So identifying the signs of hearing loss, and making sure those signs are treated, is crucial when it comes to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious problems and hearing health is significant. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you notice the television getting a little louder every week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can identify a problem.
- Once every year, people over 55 should have a hearing screening. Make sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- If you notice Mom avoiding phone conversations and staying away from social situations, the same is true. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids daily. Consistent hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are operating to their maximum capacity.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make certain they charge them when they go to sleep every night. If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this every night.
Combating Future Health Problems
You’re already trying to handle a lot, specifically if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem slightly insignificant. But the evidence is pretty clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a wide range of serious problems over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly afflictions in the future. You could block depression before it begins. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed.
For most of us, that’s worth a visit 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. You also might be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Maybe over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.