The Official SoundScape Weblog

The Official SoundScape Weblog

Ears to Hear

Be an Advocate For an Elder

     One aspect of my job which I enjoy more than just about anything else I get to do is getting to talk to people who have lived long lives and have great stories to tell. I love history and I always relish the opportunity to learn firsthand from a person who has lived an interesting life. I especially like talking to WWII vets – there are not a lot of them left. Yet, even learning about what would have been the common and mundane everyday details of life seventy years ago can be pretty interesting.

 

      Unfortunately I also see a number of elderly people who are neglected. Many seem to not value them, let alone their stories. I understand that it’s not always easy spending time with our elders for a variety of reasons. In my work, I meet people who have withdrawn and avoid social situations because they are having trouble hearing, and others will often avoid talking to them because it can be stressful and tiring to maintain a conversation. I have a loud voice and have taken voice lessons, and know how to project, but even just one hour with a person with a significant hearing loss can wear me out. If the person with the hearing loss has dementia it only exacerbates the situation.

 

     Now the point of this blog post is not to make people feel guilty.  What I want to do in this post is encourage you to be an advocate for those in need. In regards to hearing loss it’s important to have some understanding of the psychological effects it can have upon a person. Understanding these effects we can also recognize the fact that these are not simply a “natural” part of aging. I will write more about these effects in another post, but in regards to being an advocate we must note that many people can become distrustful and irritable because of a hearing loss. They will resist help, they withdraw becoming more isolated and more distrustful and sometimes paranoid. So, we must be patient and gentle, yet persistent.

 

     Here’s a list of what I feel are the most important aspects of advocating for elders, not specific to just hearing aids:

 

1. Provide help and encouragement in finding someone that can be trusted.

 

2. Provide help with necessary research and understanding concerning new technology.

 

3. Help with the transition of learning how to use the new technology – it can be confusing.

 

4. Don’t let them just give up on a new device. If they don’t want it, then return it.

 

5. Make sure the new device is being used and maintained properly.

 

6. Make sure those who are responsible for providing maintenance and services are doing what they have promised. It should not be the elder’s responsibility to keep track of the service schedule.

 

7. Don’t treat the person you are advocating for like a child.

 

8. Let them know that it is okay for them to spend money on themselves.

 

     I want to highlight that last point. Many elderly people have told me that they think they only have a few years left so it’s not worth spending money. However if something (not just hearing aids) can make even their last year better, helping them remain engaged and active, it can very much be worth it. Yet many elderly people seem to think their children would rather have their parent’s money than have them enjoy their remaining days. These elders can even feel guilty, as if it’s selfish of them, to spend money on what they may think is frivolous. As an advocate, make sure they know that their quality of life is not frivolous or selfish. Let them know that you care about them more than money and you’d rather they enjoy their life and that you are able to enjoy your time with them than inherit a little more money.

 

     There are many people out there who need an advocate, someone to look out for their best interests and help them get what they need. It doesn’t matter if that is hearing aids, a wheelchair, a caregiver, or just someone to listen to their stories. And maybe the most important thing you can do for someone is help them find an advocate. 

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