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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:
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 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:
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:
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.