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4 Ways To Find More Support When Caring For An Elder Parent/Relative

4 Ways To Find More Support When Caring For An Elder Parent/Relative
In this article, you will learn about:

  • How to create a community for your elderly parent/relative
  • Simple tasks you can teach an elder to meet their needs
  • Ways that an elder can be helpful while lessening your load
  • How to take breaks with help from family and friends

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This article was written by Issra Killawi, BA and Tariq Elsaid, MSW candidate. It was reviewed by Dr. Madiha Tahseen, Ph.D. and Dr. Kristine Ajrouch, Ph.D. Dr. Ajrouch’s research focuses on the experience of aging from the perspective of older adults.

The Prophet PBUH said to his companions once, “Let him be humbled into dust, let him be humbled into dust.” They said: “Allah’s Messenger, who is he?”  He said, “He who finds his parents in old age, either one or both of them, and does not enter Paradise.”  (Sahih Muslim)

If Allah SWT decrees for you to care for your parents in their old age, He has blessed you with a huge opportunity to enter paradise. But with this great reward comes great sacrifice. Caregiving for an elderly loved one requires so much patience and compassion. Without leaning on a wider circle of support, caregiving can easily become overwhelming.

Seeking a wider circle of support doesn’t mean that you have forsaken your parents or elders; on the contrary, it shows your love and concern for their well-being. As you strive to give your parent or elder the best care possible, here are 4 ways to find more support for you and your loved one.

1. Facilitate a sense of community for your elderly parent(s) or elder.

The Family and Youth Institute held a listening session with elders from the Canton, MI community to understand the growing needs of elders. Many of the elders expressed that they wanted a sense of inclusion and  belonging in their community. They wanted assistance with:

  • Carpooling to Jumuah prayer and other local events, especially for those who find it difficult to access public transportation systems.
  • Holding regular activities exclusively for elders.
  • Informal gatherings where community members can learn from the experience of elders and vice versa.
  • Involving elders in community activities like charity projects or service efforts.
  • Establishing a group of elder members who can exercise, eat healthier meals, and bond together regularly.

Just like the rest of us, elders desire a sense of belonging. Facilitating a sense of community for your elder parent(s) or relative can empower them with that sense of belonging. And rather than relying on you to meet all of their needs, establishing opportunities for them to cultivate social relationships can help your elder parent or relative meet their social and emotional needs through others around them.

Seek out others in your community

Seek out others in your community who also care for elderly parents or relatives. Meet with them and brainstorm ideas that will create a sense of belonging for your elderly community members.

Be sure to include the elders in your care when having these conversations. Give them agency in the activities they want to be involved in.

Through your group or through a local mosque, propose some of these ideas and if possible, be involved in coordinating them.

2. Take Time to Show Them the Ropes

In this ever-changing world, technology is fast-paced and it often leaves those who are less adept, such as elders, behind. Take time to teach your parent or elder how to use technology and stay connected–but do so with patience and gentleness. After all, they taught you the foundation of what you know! Consider teaching your parent/elder how to:

  • Use a cell phone so they can call/text or video call relatives and friends.
  • Set alarms and appointment times on calendars (both personal and shared).
  • Email on their computer or phone app (replying, forwarding, attaching files).
  • Ride public transportation including buses and Uber/Lyft.
  • Save emergency phone numbers (hospital, relatives, you).
  • Use digital media like podcasts, audio books, or helpful apps.

This may take some time in the beginning but it can pay off in the long term. Not only will they learn how to do things for themselves without you, but they will also feel a sense of empowerment and agency in meeting their own needs.

3. Help them to feel helpful.

Consider giving your parent(s)/relative a role to play in your household or in the extended family. If they are open to it, brainstorm together. Think of tasks that they can complete with ease and that will lessen the load on you, such as:

Reading with or teaching their mother tongue to your children

Helping with small chores (folding laundry, providing childcare, etc)

Helping with simple home improvement projects

Being responsible for calling other relatives to check on them or invite them over

Making daily decisions on behalf of the family, such as what to make for dinner

Keep in mind that trying to implement these ideas may be a process of “trial and error.” Some things may work right away, while other ideas may require more help from you than expected. This can be frustrating, but remember to practice patience in these moments. Suggest alternatives and see if your parent/elder is open to trying something different.

4. Take breaks by relying on help from family and friends.

Caregiver burnout is real. In order to offer the best care and support to your parent(s)/elderly relative, you need to take care of yourself. This means taking breaks from caregiving every so often. While that may sound difficult to do, here are some strategies that you can try:

  • Start small; if there is a room in your house where you enjoy doing an activity like reading, writing, praying, or just getting some alone time, let your family members know how long you’ll step away for and ask them not to disturb you for that time (unless it’s important).
  • Choose one day a week and ask a sibling to take over your duties for that night. Go out for dinner with your spouse or go for a walk with a friend.
  • Work together with your parent/elder to find out what their hobbies are and connect them with a local group that holds these activities (or other activities) for seniors. During this time, step away for a quick cup of coffee or time alone. You can also find activities that will allow you to relax and that your parent/elder will enjoy too, such as visiting a family friend or attending a lecture at the mosque.
  • It can be difficult to get time alone with your spouse or children when caring for an elder parent or relative full-time. Plan activities or a small trip and ask a sibling or relative to invite your parent/relative over for that time.

4 Ways To Find More Support When Caring For An Elder Parent/Relative
Caregiving is no easy task. But when the going gets tough, utilize these strategies and double down on seeking out help from those around you. Stay grounded in remembering that Allah (SWT) is the All-seeing and All-knowing. He is witness to every bit of care that you give to your beloved elder. Renew your intention to please Him in all that you are doing, and take breaks when you need to. Check out The FYI’s Elder Care Toolkit for more tips and resources to help you provide the best care to your elderly loved one.

The FYI’s Elder Care Toolkit

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).