They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, caring for your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills your time when you’re going through your forties and fifties. The label “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s more and more common. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
Making an appointment for Dad 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 including the annual checkup with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a major difference.
The Significance of Hearing to Senior Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, outside of your ability to communicate or listen to music, it’s crucial to have healthy hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to several physical and mental health problems, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing appointment, you could be inadvertently increasing her risk of developing these problems, including dementia. If Mom isn’t able to hear as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first starts, this kind of social isolation can take place very rapidly. You may think that mom is experiencing mood problems because she is acting a little distant but in actuality, that may not be the issue. Her hearing could be the real issue. And that hearing-induced separation can itself ultimately lead to cognitive decline (your brain is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of organ). When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s important that those signs are identified and treated.
How to Ensure Hearing is a Priority
Alright, you’re convinced. You acknowledge that hearing loss can grow out of control into more severe issues and hearing health is important. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a couple of things you can do:
- Look closely at how your parents are behaving. 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.
- 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.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where their devices are rechargeable). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Hearing aids work at their maximum capacity when they are used consistently.
- Anyone over the age of 55 or 60 needs to have a hearing exam yearly. Be sure that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
Combating Future Health Issues
You’re already dealing with a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing direct issues, it can seem a little trivial. But the research shows that a whole range of more serious future health issues can be prevented by treating hearing loss now.
So by making certain those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding expensive medical conditions later. You could block depression before it begins. You might even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For many of us, that’s worth a trip 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. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.