They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” In your twenties and thirties, spend your time raising kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s coordinating the care of your senior parents. The term “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and caring for your parents. And it’s becoming more and more prevalent. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be taken under consideration by caretakers.
Making 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 falls through the cracks, though, are things including the annual appointment with a hearing specialist or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can have a powerful affect.
The Value 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 essential to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health problems have been linked to neglected hearing loss.
So you may be unintentionally increasing the risk that she will develop these problems by missing her hearing appointment. 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 sets in, this sort of social isolation can happen very quickly. You may think that mom is having mood issues because she is acting a little bit distant but in reality, that may not be the problem. It might be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it isn’t used on a regular basis so this kind of social isolation can result in cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s important that those signs are recognized and treated.
Alright, you’re convinced. You acknowledge that hearing loss can snowball into more serious problems and hearing health is important. What can be done to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Once every year, individuals over 55 should have a hearing exam. Be sure that this yearly appointment is made for your parents and kept.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Daily hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are operating to their maximum capacity.
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you observe the TV getting a little louder each week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- Help your parents remember to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a home, ask the staff to pay attention to this every night.
- 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.
Making Certain That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
You’re already trying to handle a lot, particularly if you’re a caregiver in that sandwich generation. And if hearing impairment isn’t causing immediate issues, it can seem somewhat unimportant. But the evidence is quite clear: managing hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious problems over time.
So when you take Mom to her hearing appointment (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly ailments down the road. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. It’s even possible that dementia can be prevented or at least slowed.
For most of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she needs to be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. Once that hearing aid is in, you may be able to have a nice conversation, also. Perhaps over lunch. Perhaps over sandwiches.