Growing up, my family headed north to North Dakota in the summer to spend time with my grandparents. It allowed my grandparents to get to know us children but also allowed us children to spend time and get to know our grandparents.
When I was small I would wake up early in the morning once a summer, and, in my pajamas, I would walk outside to help my grandma Richter butcher chickens. It is always a fond memory I will never forget, in spite of some crazy stories! Now as I see my grandma age, I see her mental sharpness is still quick. Sometimes I wonder while seeing my patients, why do some still have quick mental abilities while others may have slowed?
A study released in Australia yesterday from the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project found that women who babysit their grandchildren one day a week had less risk of dementia due to faster working memory. As a mother of 14 and a grandmother to over 50 of us, no wonder her mental abilites are so sharp! Grandma Richter always has a grandchild around.
Many seniors have hearing loss and speaking with small children can be difficult. My role as an audiologist is to make it easier for these grandmothers to hear and understand these grandchildren they care for. Utilizing hearing aids not only help seniors hear their grandchildren but can also reduce their risk of dementia. Frank Lin, MD, PhD, recently found older adults with hearing loss had an increased risk of dementia compared to those with normal hearing. This study further found that patients with hearing loss had more rapid brain atrophy than those with normal hearing.
As a patient’s well-being is fully encompassing, my role as an audiologist is also changing. I’m constantly striving to think outside the box to improve my patient’s lives. Something even as simple as seeing their grandchildren or encouraging them to participate in activities is vital. I know my grandparents have no trouble with this! Instead, they are sometimes praying for piece and quiet.
Where is my career going to lead? How is audiology going to play a role in all of this? The possibilities are endless! Apps and exercises to maintain auditory processing are just a tip of the iceberg.
If you are a grandchild, visit your grandparents. You may just be helping maintain their working memory.