Challenges of Old Age
On Friday, as I placed the Quranic recitation CD of Surah Kahf on the CD player for my bed-bound mother-in-law, the fact that she had responded and had indicated that the volume was audible, brought a sense of joy to me with the fact that this was going to be one of her good days.
The effects of Dementia with the added on tragedy of multiple strokes were heartbreaking. It was a terrible reality of old age to cope with lost memories, hallucinations and paralysis. What must she remember and what had she forgotten. Throughout this ordeal, she has kept a serene and patient facade and may that calm prevail in her mind and spirit.
Although, the entire experience has been an enduring as well as a learning one, the small rewards of a smile or her contentment resonates deeply and provides satisfaction to the soul. To arrive to this level of feeling satisfaction has not been an easy one. The challenges have been an immense one from the physical care, to the emotional, plus the added frailty of the relation. Being a part of what is called the 'sandwich generation' has brought on challenges that one wouldn't have conceived prior to actually facing it. An elderly in any form of need has to be added on as another child of the family from the perspective of responsibility and nurturing.
Reading the countless verses of the Holy Quran and sayings from the Hadith in reference to the treatment of parents, we are aware of the multiple blessings of being kind to parents and treating them with honour. At times, not uttering an 'ugh!' can be a difficult task when your parent himself/herself is struggling through mental and physical issues. An example may be of an elderly parent hallucinating and accusing their child of wrong-doing or another test may be trying to feed an elderly parent when the parent is not complying.
As with the challenges of raising children, from the pain of childbirth to helping them become independent, the pain and the trials are eventually forgotten. The physical pain and inconvenience brought into our lives by the actions of caring is sifted out while the cherished memories of the special bond remains. What is left is a satisfaction of the end product of a family life.
As with our elderly parents who might physically and emotionally need us, the difficulties exist and are faced to firstly please Allah and secondly to please our parents. During the moment of the tests, when our minds become vulnerable to the daily challenges, we might pray for strength and stamina. Although at that time when we feel the burden the most, the hill might appear like a mountain. However, time lapses and strengthens our limits and thresholds. "Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah! Behold in the Remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction." (Quran 13:28)
The deepest contentment adheres to our conscience and comforts in knowing that the right path was chosen. Striving to follow the prescribed methods of familial conduct within our families not only brings us closer within our hearts to our Creator but remedies the condition of the soul with pleasure and satisfaction.
Zeba Hashmi is a writer and social activist based in Ontario, Canada. She works with various local non-profit organizations and international NGO's
mother who has Alzheimers Disease, I have first hand
witnessed many of the CHALLENGES of growing older.
I, myself have recentily retired from the New York City Dept. of Education ( former teacher) and now realize how short and fragile LIFE is. I am planning to engage in some kind of Elder Care initiative for Muslim ( and non Muslim) Seniors.
We need this! this is CLEARLY a COMMUNITY issue and many of us who are already in our late 40s and
50s need to start having serious discussions and planning workshops to address this GROWING concern! Please make du'a for us who really want to address this particularly from an Islamic perspective in a dominant non Muslim nation.
We don't need to be compromising and give reasoning for looking after our parents.When did they question our needs when we couldn't clean our dirt, fed us with care and looked after us incessantly as much as neglected them selves. How can we even think ourselves as Muslims if we have to justify looking after our parents when they are like we were in front of them when they were young and beautiful- Helpless!
Parental caring is one of the ultimate trials for us and it's not easy as you have clearly and concisely explained but, at the end of the day, when we have done our job, it's the bonding and the memories of good things that remain which gives us a unique feeling of happiness.