It’s referred to as the “sandwich generation”. You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s coordinating the care of your senior parents. The term “sandwich generation” is apt because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s increasingly common. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
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 is sometimes missed, though, are things such as the yearly exam with a hearing care professional or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a huge difference.
Hearing Health is Essential For a Senior’s General 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 linked to several mental and physical health problems, like depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you could be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these issues by missing her hearing exam. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This type of social separation can occur very quickly after hearing loss sets in. So if you notice Mom starting to get a bit distant, it may not have anything to do with her mood (yet). Her hearing might be the real problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately bring on cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it type of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s important that those signs are identified and addressed.
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You recognize that hearing loss can grow out of control into more serious issues and hearing health is important. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- 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.
- 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 watch out for this.
- Once every year, people over 55 should have a hearing screening. Make sure that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. If you notice the TV getting a little louder each week or that they are having trouble 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.
- Every day, remind your parents to use their hearing aids. Hearing aids work at their greatest capacity when they are used consistently.
Preventing Future Health Problems
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, particularly if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate issues, it can seem slightly unimportant. But the research demonstrates that a wide range of more serious future health problems can be prevented by treating hearing loss now.
So when you take Mom to her hearing test (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly ailments down the road. You could head off depression before it starts. You might even be able to decrease Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near future.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. 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 may be able to have a nice conversation, too. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.