They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. Then, taking care of your senior parent’s healthcare needs fills your time when you’re in your forties and fifties. The term “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between caring for your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s becoming a lot more common. This implies that Mom and Dad’s overall care will need to be considered by caretakers.
Setting up 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 falls through the cracks, though, are things such as the yearly appointment with a hearing specialist or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those little things can make a major difference.
Hearing Health is Crucial For a Senior’s General Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. In addition, your hearing is crucial in a way that transcends your ability to communicate or listen to music. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and several other health issues have been connected to untreated hearing loss.
So you may be unintentionally increasing the chances that she will develop these issues by skipping her hearing exam. If Mom isn’t hearing as well these days, it will limit her ability to communicate and be very isolating.
When hearing loss first begins, this type of social isolation can take place very rapidly. You might think that mom is having mood problems because she is acting a bit distant but in reality, that may not be the issue. Her hearing could be the real problem. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself ultimately lead to 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 recognized and treated.
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You’re taking it as a given that hearing is essential and that untreated hearing loss can snowball into other concerns. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
A few things that you can do are as follows:
- Anybody over the age of 55 or 60 should be undergoing a hearing exam yearly. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. A trip to a hearing specialist can help illuminate the existence of any hearing difficulties.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in situations where they have rechargeable batteries). If they are living in a retirement home, ask the staff to check this each night.
- Remind your parents to wear their hearing aids every day. Hearing aids function at their greatest capacity when they are worn regularly.
- Be mindful of your parents’ behavior. If you notice the TV getting a little louder every week or that they have difficulty hearing you on the phone, speak with Mom about making an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
Making Sure That Future Health Concerns Are Avoided
You’re already trying to handle a lot, particularly if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing direct problems, it can seem a little trivial. But the research is quite clear: dealing with hearing ailments now can prevent a multitude of serious issues over time.
So when you bring Mom to her hearing exam (or arrange to have her seen), you could be preventing much more costly conditions down the road. You could head off depression before it starts. You may even be able to reduce Mom’s chance of developing dementia in the near-term future.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing specialist. And it’s definitely worth a quick heads up to Mom that she should be wearing her hearing aid more diligently. Once that hearing aid is in, you might be able to have a nice conversation, too. Maybe over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.