They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties raising your kids. Then, looking after your senior parent’s healthcare requirements fills your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. You’re sandwiched between your children and your parents, thus the name. And it’s becoming increasingly prevalent. This implies that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
You likely won’t have any difficulty remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged or going to the yearly hearing exam can sometimes simply slip through the cracks. And those little things can make a major 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. Furthermore, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s essential to have healthy hearing. Neglected hearing loss has been connected to numerous mental and physical health problems, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you may be inadvertently increasing the chances that she will develop these issues by missing her hearing appointment. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first begins, this kind of social isolation can take place very rapidly. So if you notice Mom starting to get a bit distant, it may not even be connected with her mood (yet). It may be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used regularly so this type of social separation can lead to cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are identified and addressed.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Alright, you’re convinced. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential 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:
- Once every year, people over the age of 55 should have a hearing exam. Make certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a screening.
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If your parent is having trouble hearing you when you talk to them or seems to be turning the TV up louder and louder, encourage them to make an appointment for a hearing test.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in scenarios where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Daily hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are working to their maximum capacity.
- 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.
Avoiding Future Health Problems
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem a little insignificant. But the research demonstrates that a whole variety of more severe future health problems can be avoided by dealing with 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 in the future. You could block depression before it starts. You may even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near future.
That would be worth a visit to a hearing specialist for the majority of people. And it’s definitely worth a quick heads up to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, also. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.