Being a caregiver is never easy, but you can take comfort in the growing population of individuals experiencing similar roles. In fact in 2004, there was an estimated 28,827,766 caregivers in the United States, on average giving 30,880 millions hours of care annually. They provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. According to Caregiving in the United States; National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP.The job of caregiving can sometimes leaving us feeling fatigued, stressed, and difficult without proper support for the role of caregiver.

Sadly, one research study found that elderly people who felt stressed while taking care of their disabled spouses were 63 percent more likely to die within four years than caregivers who were not feeling stressed. However, as the Baby Boomer population has increased so has the awareness level for many companies, organizations, and support groups to provide caregivers easy to use tools and information for navigating the complex world of caregiving. Hearing loss is no exception to the rule, as audiologists realize the importance of working with caregivers and the programs that support caregivers.

Age is the number one factor in hearing loss, and usually by the age of 65, in groups one out of five older adults with have some form of hearing loss. It is also more commonly seen with individuals who have a history of chronic conditions such as diabetes, vascular problems, and eye disease. Many times the same individuals who need the assistance of caregivers. Poor hearing acuity may place additional demands on “attention sharing” during activities that require multi-tasking or a greater focus on maintaining balance thus compromising safety. Hearing impairment may contribute to less socialization, more inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle that hastens the disablement process thereby increasing risk of falling. Hearing impairment among older adults should be considered more than a communication disorder and that deficits in hearing may have more wide-ranging consequences such as contributing to increased risk of falling.

Recommendations for Older Adults
• If you notice a change in hearing, have a hearing test.
• Ask your health care provider to check for, and remove, accumulated earwax.
• If you have a hearing aid, use it. See your audiologist for adjustments as needed.
• Ask about alternative hearing devices such as personal sound amplifiers and listening devices, wireless TV headphones, and amplified telephones.

Source: Mary E. Tinetti, M.D. CT Collaboration for Fall Prevention. 2005

Some Simple Communication Tips:
• Face the person and speak clearly
• Stand where there is good lighting
• Hold conversations in areas where there is little background noise
• Do not talk too fast or too slow
• Do not hide your mouth, eat, or chew gum while talking
• Use facial expressions and gestures while you talk
• Reword your statement if it isn’t understood the first time
• Be patient; stay positive
• Ask how you may help your loved one convey his or her message
• Don’t talk about your loved one as if he or she isn’t in the room. Make sure to include him or her in the conversation.