Friday, 18 January 2008

It Does Not Mean You Do Not Care!

The Qur'an warns strictly of the care facilities that one has to provide for their parents, especially as they move on to the old sensitive age. This includes financial support, shelter, medical facilities, continuing education (especially religious education), a sense of belonging and plenty of love and care. Sounds like taking care of your new-born does it not? As my husband says, as we grow older, we tend to grow younger - not in a good way but physically, mentally and socially we are unable to do most of the things we were able to do when young. Sounds about right, does it not.

Most Muslim families have their parents live with them once they reach a certain age - it is an honourable thing to do, to take care of your parents - should anything happen to them, at least you are there and readily available to jump to their needs.

I once spoke of this to a non-Muslim friend who was having difficulties coping with her grouchy, diabetic and extremely stubborn grandfather who was spending his cranky days terrorising her working mother, instead of his own son. She was so flabberghasted that she wanted to shift him off to a home. Our Muslim friend disagreed, saying that it was their duty to take care of him, regardless of his attitude.

When they finally asked me what I thought, they were shocked to know I sided with my non-Muslim friend. My opinion was this, both his son and daughter-in-law worked long hours, and the 6 grandchildren who stayed with him either worked like their parents or were studying vigorously in school / university. He was left at home everyday, with a maid who did not speak the same language. He had a strict diet that he refused to follow and was generally grouchy and temperamental.

What he needed was this - a place to socialise with plenty of cheerful peers, avenues to exercise, medical care provided by personnel he could not bully and he needed to get out of the house. This was for his own good as well as the family's.

Personally, I think care homes are good for the elderly, all for the reasons above. At this age, they are free from any burdens of cooking and cleaning and working in general and they should be allowed to kick with buddies of their generation with a glass of milk and diabetic cookies, do some light exercise in the park and have professional people look after them. They should also be given their own time to reflect on life and read the Qur'an as often as they like. I'm not saying we should discard them completely - if it is possible for them to come home and sleep at home, then by all means, pick them up after work. The point is, they would not be alone at home during the day. It can be lonely for them, and sometimes depressing if everyone is rushing about, in and out of work, school, clubs, sporting activities, music classes. It happens - life goes on for the next generation and it is within their duties to make the best of their lives too.

Loving your parents does not mean you have to keep them bottled up in the living room the whole day - it is much like your children, you have to let them off to pre-school one day, just for the sake of getting up and about, out the house and learning something new in this unlimited world of wisdom. It is also a time for them to make friends and talk to other people. The elderly need that too, especially if a spouse has passed on - moping around at home can lead them down memory lane's more painful trips.

If you are concerned about sending your parents off to care homes as you should be, take time to do some research on the different types of care available. If you parents have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, take time to look around for care-providers that will help them with their medication. Check if you can send your parents to homes for day-care only, much like pre-school, if you do not want them lodging there permanently. Also ask about the activities they arrange - like exercise and other social activities that will benefit your parents. If keeps the mind and body fit at all times. If you still have qualms about homes, you may want to consider bringing care into your home - that is also a viable option, though without the social aspect.

If you are living in the UK, bettercaring provides a whole list of caring homes for the elderly, that way you would be able to contact them directly and even pay them a visit, with your parents to check out their facilities and meet their people. It would be worth a search, in my mind.

Most homes provided that. Bettercaring will help you with all your questions if you are looking for options that will help your parents through their later years of their lives. They should happy years and they deserve that - it is part of caring for them.

I don't think my friend ever desposited her granddad into a home - as she put it. The facilities do not really exist in Asia, and besides the norm would be to keep your parents in your own home. I know many Muslim families here though feel there is a need to change. My mum-in-law mentioned that a few friends of hers put their heads together and rented a small house for all their parents to stay together. There they set up all the facilities for them to live comfortably and hired an Ustaz (religious teacher) to sit with them and read the Qur'an and tell them religious stories - just to remind themselves of the importance of being a Muslim. On the weekends, after five days of activities and pot-luck meals, they all return home to their families with a bundle of stories of their own to share with their kids and grandkids.


Ijtema said...

Assalamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullah
I pray that you are in the best of health & imaan.
This is a short message to notify you that this entry has been selected for publishing on, a venture to highlight the best of the Muslim blogosphere. Please visit the site to find out more about our initiative.
May Allah bless you for your noble efforts.

suhaa said...

asalaam alaikum warahmat Allah wabarakatu:
although i respect your ideas i can't say i totally agree to this kind of set-up. i worked in nursing homes for years, adult care centers (day-care), assisted living facilities, and such as an occupational therapist prior to moving here to madinah. although social interaction is important and often crucial i don't think places like these do an adequate job at this. they have their room, maybe a roomate who doesn't speak..because Allah tells us in the Quran that we are born in weakness, then given strength and if we live long enough will be brought to weakness again. in the west, US, where nursing homes are everywhere it would be difficult for an elder to reflect on Quran with peers namely because there might not be any other Muslims. the talking, the playing card games, and eating non-halal lunches are not easy for a muslim elder.

for a muslim home in the west to take in their parents, even if the greater part of the day they are left alone safely ..would be more service, more grace to the elder rather than dropping them off at a daycare with others who do not share the same values and beliefs.

quite hoenstly, it is difficult for most elders to request of their children to care for them as they get older, so if an adult child suggests this..and the elder seems happy about could be that its just that.."seems", and not really is.

these outlets are all good if they allow the elder self-expression as a Muslim and encourage that..but the truth is, they really don't.

male nurses going in on female elders is a common occurrance..sometimes laughed off rather than stating the need of modesty on behalf of the elder.

nurses aids who have to get so many people up and ready in a day makes fosters a non-caring environment..

then you have the adult day care centers which really revolves around leisure activities namely games like bingo, and even betting is involved. sometimes dogs will come in for visits..

ive been a part of these places and i pray that my parents never have to be in a position of need, and if they do then i pray that Allah will facilitate me to be their direct careprovider.

you may know of the story of a man who did tawaf carrying his mother on his shoulder and then approached Rasullilah, as, to ask: have i fulfilled my duties upon her? He said NEVER! subhanAllah.
i know this is not easy for everyone, but we should also refrain from making excuses. because the truth is, it is not an act of is an act of obligation. Allah knows best. jazakAllah kheir for this thought provoking post.

hijabhaven said...

Salaam Ijtema,
thanks again.

Salaam Suhaa,
Thank you for disagreeing with me. That's what blogs are for. I'm glad you left a comment - and a really long descriptive one at that - to share your experience working in elder homes. I understand that it is an obligation to take care of parents when they attain their older years and I also agree that many of the establishments in the West were set up to really deposit old folks when they became a burden. Similarly, some of the elderly check themselves in when they have no where else to go.

Of course I am against that type of mentality. But personally I have seen older people who live with their children and take the opportunity (intentionally or not) to create disharmny within the family. It is not uncommon for "in-laws" to institgate arguments in the home and to cause marital dysfunction. I've seen it happen before and still happen now - just because these elderly people decide to waste time moping and groaning rather than partake in spiritual enhancing activities. Nevertheless their children love and respect them and try their best to abide by their needs.

When disharmony happens, they ignore the elder, just to skirt around arguments or fule the fire, so to speak. This usually works in stopping the back-biting but the elder usually takes it the wrong way and moves on to sulk or complain to another son or daughter. Then the ruckus erupts between siblings. Siblings are arguing, then the spouses get involved. It's all a messy do. It does happen unfortunately.

I know this probably does not sound like a good excuse to deposit of the elder to a home. But really that is not the intention. The reason is, the elder is bored. Needs something else to do. That's why I mentioned some of my mum-in-law's friends rent homes together to have their parents stay together to learn / read Qur'an and have pot-luck lunches. They also indulge in gardening, reading, other simple activities.

Of course, I am in a Muslim country and this would not happen in homes in the States. Maybe Muslims have to take an innovative approach to broach this problem?

My concerns, if I were in the position, would be my parents' / in-laws' safety when left home alone for long hours during the day. Let's say if I am out running chores and chauffering my kids around. Normally I would not bother to eat if I am too busy - I would fast. But I would have to worry about the elder who is home alone.

Again, nonMuslim meals are out of the question at nursing homes - so maybe Muslims have to step up and take the reigns - maybe share-parenting (like we do with kids)? Playdates? I don't know - I'm thinking out of the box here.

It's all in best intention to take care of parents and those issues you brought up in your comment are of grave concern. I would not allow any elder of mine to suffer in fear like that.

But if I had the chance to treat them to a nice day-care centre where proper meals are available and they get to exercise (tai-chi for example), read Qur'an and have religious teachers come share their experiences - why not? They don't have to stay there - they can come home - a change just gives them something to look forward to and break the monotony of the days.

It is something to consider - for their health and safety too - provided it's good care. But thanks again, Suhaa - come back and post more comments. It's good to know I've hit some important strings. :)

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