Posted on 3 Comments

Dealing with difficult elderly parents

Question:

Salaams,

I have been living with my 70-year-old parent and Alhamdulillah I am able to take care of her but the problem is she keeps hurting my feelings every now and then.

She throws hurtful words at me and sometimes even to my kids and I have seen this behaviour of hers she shows it only to me and my sister whom we live with her but my other sisters who live in other cities come to visit her but she doesn’t show them this behaviour instead she pampers them so much and shows love and care to those who don’t even spend day and night with her.

I know I should show patience and she’s in a stage where these things happen to us humans but I really need ways on how to reduce this tension.

I need better mental health to be able to take her words and be able to take care of her.

I have tried talking to her about this behaviour of hers but it even made things worse and she starts getting very angry and just shouting like for hours.

It’s very hurtful to see her not appreciate even the efforts we put to take care of her.

It even makes us discouraged for this.

Please help me with ways on how to overcome this stress and also what to do to her so that she can shower us her love and not her hatred.

Shukran team IR.


Answer:

Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu, dear Sister.

Hope you are in the best of your health and Iman!

One of the most emotionally complex and difficult things a person can experience is taking care of an elderly parent.

Alhamdulillah, you are taking care of your mother despite her rude behaviour towards you. May Allah ﷻ bless you with countless bounties. Ameen!

Sister, you might be going through a hard time with many questions in your mind about what you owe to whom and how much time, energy and attention you have the right to claim for yourself.

A common thought expressed is ‘Midlife should be a time I can think more about myself, instead, I have to think about everyone in my family.’
Other more negative feelings you are going through may be anxiety as to whether you are able to meet the needs of your mother and maintain one’s own sanity and health. This is magnified when a mother is described as difficult.

Your mother may be ungracious and unresponsive to your needs, but quick to accuse and criticize. She might deny that she is benefiting from the help provided.

An envious mother may heap praises on one sibling support, condemning the offering of her other child. This is what is happening in your case.

There are a few things that could help reduce your stress level, and help you take care and create a stronger bond with your mother, In Sha Allah.

  1. Accept that things have changed.

         Sister, at first, accept that things have changed. Your mother is now dependent on you. The world turned upside down for her. Be prepared for that radically new paradigm. Old roles may not apply, old methodologies may not be applicable or old emotions may not apply. Be prepared to work and write from a whole new script.

  1. Take it slowly.

         Have patience. Don’t rush it.

  1. Expect nothing emotionally from your mother.

          At the end phase of her life, she might open up to you emotionally and spiritually. She might express for you the love that, for whatever reason, she hasn’t expressed so far. But, there are also chances of her not doing that. It will be fantastic if you care for your aging mother and bond with her in a new and deeper way, but going into caring for her while expecting or even hoping for some appreciation is to wade into dangerous waters. Better to have no expectations and be surprised, than to have your hopes dashed.

  1. Expect her anger.

              When you start taking care of your mother, she loses the one thing that she had always had in her relationship with you: AUTHORITY. That’s not going to be easy for her to give up. Expect her, in one way or another, to lash out about that loss. She may throw tantrums. It’s normal.

  1. Give her the autonomy.

Sister, offer your mother options instead of orders. It’s important for her to continue to feel as if she, and not you, is running her life. Let her decide everything about her own care and situation.

  1. Ask for her advice.

           A great way to show your mother love and respect, especially to convince her that she is still of true value to you, is to sincerely seek her advice on something going on in your life.

  1. Separate her emotional dysfunction from her cognitive dysfunction.

           As far as you can, through your conversations and interactions with your mother, learn to distinguish between her emotional and cognitive dysfunctions. The patterns of your mother’s emotional dysfunctions such as fear, anxiety and sadness will probably be familiar to you; those, you’ll know how to deal with, but her cognitive dysfunctions such as thinking, remembering and reasoning will probably be new to you. Track it, react to it gingerly, and discuss it with your mother’s health care providers. Mostly, just be aware that it’s new and so demands a new kind of response.

         8. Depend on your spouse.

            Sister, you may find that your mother is more comfortable relating to your spouse than to you. Though that can certainly hurt your feelings, don’t let it. It could be simply because your mother doesn’t share with your spouse all the baggage she does with you. Mainly, she has never been the dominant force in your spouse’s life. Your spouse and your mother are peers to a degree that you and your mother can never be. Let that work for you. Depend on your spouse to be as instrumental in the care of your mother as she wants him to be.

          9. Take care of yourself.

            Sister, it’s so easy to surrender much of your life to the care of your aging mother more than you should, but you serve well neither yourself nor your mother if you fail to take walks, stretch out or eat right. Make sure you spend quality time on yourself. Make the taken time to rejuvenate yourself as a critical part of your care routine for your mother, as you do cooking her meals or making sure she takes her medicines. Your life still needs to be about you.

  1. You need to love yourself for trying.

               Your efforts may not always succeed. You may doubt what you’re doing. You may feel guilty and get mad at your aging mom who is so difficult. But keep trying to make life manageable, keep up her quality of life the best you can and do it with a sincere heart. You need to tell yourself that you are brave and valued from within for forging on in the face of difficulty. You need to appreciate your own efforts.

  1. Pray to Allah ﷻ.

                  He is All-knowing and All- Hearing. Cry out to Him, make lots and lots of Dua. Do lots of Istighfar, as it opens the doors of mercy. Whatever you do for your mother, do it for the sake of Allah ﷻ. In sha Allah, everything you do will be rewarded. Console yourself by reminding that Allah will reward you for your efforts, In sha Allah, as long as you are patient and sincere. Because, remember, at the end of the day, it is Allah Who matters and no one else.

And my dear sister, remember that Paradise lies under the feet of your mother.

It was narrated from Mu’awiyah bin Jahimah As-Sulami that Jahimah came to the Prophet ﷺ and said:”O Messenger of Allah ﷺ! I want to go out and fight (in Jihad) and I have come to ask your advice.” He said: “Do you have a mother?” He said: “Yes.” He said: “Then stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet.”  [Sunan an-Nasa’i 3104]

 Bahz b. Hakīm on his father’s authority said that his grandfather said: I said: Messenger of Allah ﷺ! To whom should I show kindness? He replied: Your mother, next your mother, next your mother, and then comes your father, and then your relatives in order of relationship. [Sunan Abū Dāwūd, hadith 5139]

“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “Uff,” and do not repel to them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, ‘My Lord have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.’” [Surah Al-Isra, Verse 23-24]

May Allah ﷻ ease your worries and help you to take care of your mother in the best way possible. Ameen.

Written by: Fouzi
Edited By: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog

3 thoughts on “Dealing with difficult elderly parents

  1. That’s so rightly and beautifully explained. May Allah ease the sister’s affairs. Looking forward to more of your solutions ma’am.💕

    1. Jazakillah khairan
      Ameen ya Rab 😊

  2. Mashallah suprb explanation from the counselor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *