They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare needs occupies your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The name “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s more and more common. For caretakers, this implies investing a lot of time contemplating Mom or Dad’s all-around care.
You most likely won’t have a problem remembering to take Mom or Dad to the oncologist or cardiologist because those appointments feel like a priority. But things like making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged or making the annual hearing test can sometimes simply fall through the cracks. And those little things can have a powerful impact.
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 goes beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to numerous mental and physical health issues, such as depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you may be unintentionally increasing the risk that she will develop these issues by skipping her hearing appointment. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
When hearing loss first sets in, this type of social isolation can happen very quickly. You may think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little distant but in reality, that might not be the issue. It might be her hearing. And that hearing-induced solitude can itself eventually result in 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 crucial that those signs are identified and addressed.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You recognize that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe issues and hearing health is essential. How can you be certain hearing care is a priority?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Hearing aids work at their optimal capacity when they are used regularly.
- If your parents have hearing aids that can be recharged help them make certain they keep them charged when they go to bed every night. If your parents live in a retirement home, ask their caretakers to do this.
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you notice the television getting a little louder every week or that they are having trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can pinpoint a problem.
- 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 needs to have a hearing test every year or so. Be certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
Combating Future Health Issues
You’re already dealing with 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 a little unimportant. But the evidence is quite clear: managing 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 avoiding much more costly afflictions down the road. Perhaps you will stop depression early. You might even be able to lower Mom’s risk of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s certainly worth a quick reminder to Mom that she needs to be wearing her hearing aid more vigilantly. You also may be able to have a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.