They call it the “Sandwich Generation.” You go through your twenties and thirties bringing up your kids. And then you spend your 40s and 50s coordinating the healthcare of your senior parents. The label “sandwich generation” is appropriate because you’re sandwiched between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents. And it’s increasingly common. This means that Mom and Dad’s total healthcare will need to be considered 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 falls through the cracks, though, are things like the yearly checkup with a hearing specialist or making certain Mom’s hearing aids are charged. And those little things can make a major difference.
Hearing Health is Essential For a Senior’s Total Health
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Moreover, beyond your ability to listen to music or communicate, it’s necessary to have healthy hearing. Neglected hearing loss has been linked to several mental and physical health problems, including depression and loss of cognitive abilities.
So you may be unknowingly 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 type of social isolation can happen very rapidly. So if you notice Mom starting to get a bit distant, it might not have anything to do with her mood (yet). It may be her hearing. Your brain is an organ that can atrophy if it’s not used on a regular basis so this type of social solitude can lead to cognitive decline. When it comes to the health of your senior parents, it’s essential that those signs are recognized and addressed.
How to Make Certain Hearing is a Priority
Fine, we’ve convinced you. You have no doubt that hearing is essential and that neglected hearing loss can snowball into other issues. What can you do to prioritize hearing care?
There are a few things you can do:
- Help your parents to remember to wear their hearing aids every day. Daily hearing aid use can help establish that these devices are operating to their maximum capacity.
- Anyone over 55 needs to have a hearing test every year or so. Make certain that your senior parent has a scheduled appointment for such a test.
- 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.
- Help your parents to not forget to charge their hearing aids every night before they go to sleep (at least in cases where their devices are rechargeable). If your parents live in an assisted living situation, ask their caretakers to watch out for this.
- The same is true if you notice Mom starting to isolate herself, canceling phone conversations, and avoiding people. Any hearing problems she may be having will be identified by her hearing specialist.
Making Sure That Future Health Issues Are Avoided
You’re already trying to handle a lot, especially if you’re a primary care provider in that sandwich generation. And if hearing loss isn’t causing immediate problems, it can seem slightly insignificant. But the research demonstrates that a wide variety of more serious future health problems can be avoided by managing hearing loss now.
So by making sure those hearing exams are scheduled and kept, you’re preventing costly medical problems in the future. You could block depression before it starts. It’s even feasible that dementia can be avoided or at least slowed down.
For many of us, that’s worth a visit to a hearing specialist. And it’s easy to give Mom a quick reminder that she should be conscientious about wearing her hearing aids. You also might be capable of having a nice conversation once that hearing aid is in. Perhaps over lunch. Maybe over sandwiches.