National Family Caregivers Month: Caring for those with hearing loss
The late actor Edward Albert once said, “The simple act of caregiving is heroic.” It is in that spirit that November is designated as National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize all who sacrifice every day to help those in need. All across the U.S., family members such as spouses, adult children or siblings have dedicated themselves to helping those who can’t help themselves.
According to the AARP 2015 Caregivers Report, there are approximately 43.5 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. Almost half of these caregivers, 47 percent, are caring for someone age 75 or older.
So, how often does hearing loss factor into the daily lives of caregivers? The NIDCD reports that more than 50 percent of those over the age of 75 have hearing loss. Those percentages increase as the population ages. Hearing loss, whether treated or untreated, comes with a host of other implications that caregivers need to be aware of. First, seniors with hearing loss are more at risk for health problems, both physical and emotional. These health risks include feelings of depression and isolation as well as cognitive decline.
Other physical risks include the risk of falls, which are three times more likely to occur even with mild hearing loss, and the inability to hear warnings and alarms. And since most general practitioners do not routinely screen for hearing loss, it often falls to the caregiver to make sure matters of hearing health are tended to. This means either requesting a hearing screening during a regular check-up or making an appointment with a hearing health professional.
Those providing care to a person with hearing loss can face other challenges as well. Everything from attending doctor’s appointments and day to day communication to simply watching a television program requires factoring hearing loss into the equation. It is helpful for caregivers to learn about hearing loss so they can help the person they are caring for live a happy and fulfilled life.
If you suspect there is hearing loss, take action. Depression, withdrawal and social isolation, along with the aforementioned physical health risks, can reduce quality of life for those with untreated hearing loss. First, make an appointment with a hearing care care professional, preferably one that specializes in senior care. Next, since hearing aids are a considerable expense, when helping the person in your care shop for hearing aids, knowing a few things going in can help you make the right decision.
After the person in your care has received his hearing aids, depending on his cognitive and fine motor skills, it might fall to you as the caregiver to perform basic cleaning and maintenance tasks on hearing aids. Some things to keep in mind:
As a caregiver to a person with hearing loss, there is much to be considered in order to make sure the person in your care can hear the world around him and enjoy as much independence as possible. Some general caregiver guidelines to keep in mind are:
Caregivers face many challenges, and in particular caregivers to those with hearing loss have much to learn. But taking these few simple steps can help improve the day to day quality life for the person in your care and help them engage in life once again.