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Baby Boomers Caring for Elderly Parents

Do you have a parent who is, or parents who are, getting up there in years? What are you doing about their health, their care, their finances? What are you supposed to be doing? To find answers to these questions, I went to my local library. I had hoped that experts, people with hands-on experience, and well, any ole’ do-gooders could tell me how to proceed with my own aging mother. The books themselves were reassuring in general, but in my specific case, the “How To” and “What’s Next” advice was not particularly helpful. Although I learned a bit from each book, no book garnered my unfettered attention. The problems and solutions explained in these books weren’t specific enough to help me with my parent.

Perhaps, step-by-step specifics are less helpful in meeting the your parents’ needs than are global principles about helping others. Here are a few general pointers that are based on empirical research. These are not necessarily particular only to elderly caring giving, but instead are broadly applicable to solving problems of everyday life.

1. Social Support: Everyone needs it! “Dad had been strong all his life.” “Mom is a loner.” However you describe your parent, he or she needs social support. A comprehensive research review conducted by Uchino, Cacioppo, and Kiecolt-Glaser (1996, Psychological Bulletin) suggests that people who have higher levels of social support have better cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune functioning. Moreover, much psychological research suggests that those who have greater social support are better off psychologically. One study, conducted by Ownsworth, Henderson, and Chambers, (2010, Psycho-Oncology) showed that caregivers who reported higher social support reported more positive psychological well-being. It seems clear that we may need to slow down and ensure that our parents receive the social support they need. In whatever way you can, provide your parent social support, do so. But you cannot do everything; do what you are particularly suited toward. If you are good at finances provide this type of “instrumental support.” If you are good at listening, provide this type of “emotional support.” Just as important, recognize your own need for social support; gather it wherever you can-from your partner, your own children, friends, co-workers. Garnering social support from others will strengthen you and your ability to provide support for your parent.

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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).