Recently, I visited family in Palestine. My mother-in-law has a few physical issues, but dementia has really taken its toll. She recognizes those she sees regularly, but has a hard time remembering others. She continuously introduces herself to my children and me, but extraordinarily, she remembers that we speak English and she uses the few English words she knows when talking to us.
Although she has a home of her own, she is blessed that one of her sons lives upstairs with his wife and five children, who all share in the responsibility of her daily needs. At times it seemed like the 7- and 8-year-old kids might be a bother to her, but I realize they are a true blessing as they entertain her and keep her on her toes and in the process they are learning valuable lessons about the obligations one has toward family. I am humbled at the amount of love and patience they all show.
The Quran, prepares us for what we may face as we age: “God is He that created you in a state of weakness, then He appointed after weakness strength, then after strength He appointed weakness and grey hairs; He creates what He will, and He is the All-knowing, the All-powerful.” 30:54
But even if we think we are prepared, it is still difficult to see our parent’s health decline. Many would like to care for their parents in their homes, but each family is different and their ability to be caregivers depends largely on the type of care needed, availability, financial situation and proximity.
I applaud all of those who are taking care of their aging parents and family members in whichever way they can. Some are able to live with their parents, while others live nearby and are available when needed. Yet others find they have to put their parents in a facility and visit them regularly. (I also applaud the caregivers in facilities; it takes a special person to do that job well)
We may fear that we won’t have the patience to contend with ailing parents, but it’s important to remember how frightening it must be for them. Many fear the effects of aging more than they fear death. They are afraid of losing their mental faculties, or giving up their independence and becoming a burden to family members.
Some get frustrated with their condition and can become cantankerous and even mean spirited. We may lose our patience when they ask the same thing repeatedly, or when they won’t follow our advice. It can be even more difficult if the relationship was strained to begin with. But Muslims are commanded never to break family ties and to always treat parents with respect.
“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: "My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small." 17:23-24
May God bless all those who are fulfilling their obligations to their parents. The most valuable thing we can give elderly loved ones is the gift of our time. Visit them, call them, listen to what they have to say, be patient and treat them how we want our children to treat us.
For more columns by Rose Hamid visit www.MrsRoseHamid.com