They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You spend your twenties and thirties raising your kids. And then when you’re in your forties and fifties you’re organizing the care of your senior parents. The term “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s becoming increasingly prevalent. This indicates that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be considered by caretakers.
You likely won’t have a problem remembering to take Mom or Dad to the cardiologist or oncologist because those appointments feel like a priority. What is sometimes missed, though, are things including the yearly checkup with a hearing specialist or making certain Dad’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a major difference.
Hearing Health is Crucial For a Senior’s Overall 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 necessary to have healthy hearing. Loss of cognitive ability, depression, and numerous other health problems have been linked to untreated hearing loss.
So when you skip Mom’s hearing appointment, you might be unknowingly increasing her chances of developing these problems, including dementia. It will be socially isolating if Mom can’t communicate because she can’t hear very well.
This type of social separation can occur very quickly after hearing loss sets in. So if you notice Mom beginning to get a bit distant, it might not even be connected with her mood (yet). It may be her hearing. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually 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 crucial that those signs are recognized and addressed.
Prioritizing Hearing Health
Okay, we’ve convinced you. You acknowledge that hearing loss can snowball into more serious problems and hearing health is important. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Each day, remind your parents to wear their hearing aids. Consistent hearing aid use can help ensure that these devices are operating 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.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids each night before they go to bed (at least in scenarios where they have rechargeable batteries). If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- Anyone over the age of 55 or 60 should be undergoing a hearing test yearly. Be sure that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
- Keep an eye on your parents’ behavior. If you notice the television getting a bit louder every week or that they have trouble hearing you on the phone, talk to Mom about scheduling an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you can pinpoint a problem.
Preventing 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 impairment isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem a little unimportant. But the research is fairly clear: managing hearing ailments now can protect against a wide range of serious problems over time.
So by making certain those hearing tests are scheduled and kept, you’re avoiding costly medical problems later. Perhaps you will avoid depression early. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided 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 should be diligent about wearing her hearing aids. You also might be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps you’ll get some lunch and have a nice chat.