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For Elderly Muslims, Few Care Options Outside the Home

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This article is from the New York Times.  Reading it makes me realize the needs of a growing population of elderly Muslims in the West but it makes me sad as well. Maybe it is a blessing in disguise that we don’t have Muslim elderly homes, so children continue receive the blessings of serving their parents in their old age.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has observed : Let that man be disgraced, and disgraced again and let him be disgraced even more.” The people inquired : “O Prophet of God (peace and blessings of Allah be upon you) who is that man?” The Prophet of God (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) affirmed: “I refer to the man who finds his parents old in age – both of them or one of them – and yet did not earn entitlement to Paradise by rendering good service to them.
[Muslim]

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On the other hand, there are situations when some Muslims have no other options and need a halal compliant facility. Sometimes the best service is what professionals can give. What do our readers think?

By KAREN STABINER

Nazli Currim lived for 14 years at the intersection of tradition and frustration. After her father died, her mother moved into Ms. Currim’s home. She cared for her mother full time, even after a stroke six years before she died.

Ms. Currim, 69, founder of the American Muslim Women’s Association, never considered finding a nursing home for her mother. Her attitude is common among Muslims in the United States, many of whom are reluctant even to consider placing an aging family member in a facility.

Part of that decision was a personal one, but part of it was practical: It is difficult for Muslims to find nursing homes and assisted living facilities that reflect their way of life.

Cultural competence has become a buzzword as adult children seek elder care solutions that acknowledge an older person’s cultural and religious identity. But the Muslim community faces a particular challenge. The elderly segment of that population is quite small, representing “only 0.5 percent of our American Muslim population,” according to Aneesah Nadir, president of the Islamic Social Services Association U.S.A., based in Phoenix. “Most of the elders of those who have immigrated here are still overseas. We’re a youthful population.”

Older parents who do come to the United States often live an insulated existence. “They don’t speak the language, so people can’t communicate with them,” said Ms. Nadir. For them, life in a majority of residential facilities would be an alien experience.

“Many of the facilities are not equipped to provide the kind of care a Muslim elder needs — requirements for diet, for prayers, for things that would make a comfortable setting,” she said. “We can’t count on those things in most elder care facilities. They’re not used to us.”

Demand for these facilities may not yet be enormous, but that seems likely to change. The Pew Research Center reports that the Muslim population in the United States will double by 2030, which means that more adult children will need a greater range of options for their aging parents. Without expanded services at existing facilities, or a combination of Muslim-run residences and an increased willingness to use them, the coming generation will face a care crisis.

The traditional model of a full-time stay-at-home caregiver will not survive as the elderly population increases and Muslim women step into the work force. Ms. Currim knows that she was able to do it only because she had both time and a network of supportive relatives to help out.

Read rest here

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Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Cartoon M.

    March 15, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Like you said, it may be a blessing in disguise that there aren’t many Muslim nursing homes, but maybe there are some people who legitimately cant take care of their parents. It would have to be a very serious situation, maybe something similar to something that would make you consider putting your own children in an institution like nursing homes. I mean, after Allah who do we owe more to than our parents?

    But regardless of what would count as a legitimate reason, I’m sure they will be a need for Muslim nursing homes in the near future.

    • Your sister

      April 26, 2015 at 4:34 PM

      Your not adressing the need for elder services that are needed for the muslim living in the west.
      Yes, all children, even non muslims take care of their parents. But, regardless of religion we all need two incomes. Hence, we are not able to provide socialization or other resources that our parents need during the day. Saying it is a blessing that we don’t have these resources is Ignorant at best, and dangerous for those who are unable to think past your Koranic versus.
      Please sister be a pillar of light and promote a community effort to create things that make our lives better; not a submissive female who throw her hands in the air and says its a blessing in disguise.
      Last thought, the mountain didnt come to Muhammad, he went to the mount.

  2. Mohammad

    March 16, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    I do not think that we should go down the road of care homes. I work in one in Britain, and it does not matter how much love and affection I and the staff around me show to the elderly people we look after, the one thing they always miss is the love, affection, comfort and care of their own children. There is no subsitute for that.

    We as Muslims need to put our parents first. That may mean we need to scarifice time at work or do not have all the luxaries other people may have or might not be able to do all the pleasurable activities others do. But we can not and must not grow a mentality of me first. This is one of the problems of Capitalist socities.

    • HenaZuberi

      March 16, 2011 at 1:09 PM

      JazakAllah khair for your insight. Could you tell us more about your experiences that would help someone making this decision.
      I have a friend who is a social worker who takes care of geriatric veterans many who are African American Muslims. She said they hardly have a support system. She read this article and said that it gave her better insight on to deal with Muslim clients.

    • Hello Kitty

      March 16, 2011 at 7:07 PM

      At the same time, most people are not equipped, physically or mentally, to provide skilled nursing care for their parents who are ill or disabled. Sometimes the decision to entrust the care of a loved one to trained professionals is the most humane, caring, and loving one that a child can offer. The utter majority of elder abuse cases in the united states occur in families where the largest burden of care falls onto the middle aged daughter. They’re often completely overwhelmed with the full time care of very dependent adults, while at the same time trying to maintain happiness and harmony in their immediate family, where at that age they are often dealing with the daunting challenges of raising teenagers in the united states. It’s hardly just a matter of deciding to buy a Honda instead of a Mercedes, so one can be able to care for their parents. An awful lot of people out there right now can’t keep their heads above water, finance wise, right now, much less can they afford to work less because they’re doing a job that nurses receive a lot of compensation for. Why are nurses paid so much for that level of care? Because it’s exceedingly difficult to do competently, and with love and compassion. So don’t write off everyone who simply cannot do this task competently, or humanely as just being selfish, or putting their own selfish needs first. The picture is much, much bigger than that.

  3. forever a student of Islam

    March 17, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    i think this has something to do with culture, wallahu a’lam. here in asia, there are very very very few families who would do such a thing, and even when they do they are looked down by society. leaving their elders at an elders care facility is a sign that this is an unloving family, at least in my region i don’t know about others. even though some of them are mentally disturbed and cause a lot of trouble at home, we just don’t send them there. it’s not humane at all. after all the work they have done for us and all the troubles they had to put through to raise us up, we just don’t repay all that by sending them to a care facility. as much as possible, we try to provide all the best care we can and raise both the grand children to know and live with their grandparents.

    may Allah give us the sabr and love to give back to our elders during this difficult time of their lives. ya rab.

  4. Hira

    March 17, 2011 at 4:55 AM

    Salaam

    Subhanallah this article really took me by surprise as to be honest I expected a bit more from America. My grandmum is in a care home where the majority of staff speak her language and she has halaal pakistani tasty food!!

    But my main comment was about the social and Islamic aspect of things. Culturally it is just not accepted and when many people hear about our situation they make such “pious” comments about how they would never do that to anyone of their family members. It really is painful as many people not in that situation cannot even begin to realise the psychological and physical impact it has on the family- mainly the women as generally speaking they are the prime carers. My grandmum is disabled to the point she needs 24/7 care (without exaggeration as she cannot go to the toilet by herself). It got to the point when my mum (her full time carer) started to go a bit mad and in turn that had a huge affect on me. If you have never dealt with a disabled person before you really have no idea what it feels like, especially if that disabled person is your mother.

    Now in a care home she is much happier as she herself feels more independent and in control. She is always clean and fresh as in our home it was nearly impossible to keep her 100% clean.

    Also a very common misconception is that once the person is in a care home- your job is complete. Far from it! There is *always* something to do for them, hence the opportunity for reward never goes away. All the staff know us all by name and they tell us we are the only people that actually visit daily.

    So it is very easy to quote hadith and ayat but you cannot judge everyone’s situation and like it was said above- there are times when actually a care home is the most humane solution for all.

    ws

  5. Muslim-Seniors Long-Island

    September 19, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    Salaam,

    This is a reality of our times, most of American Muslims will
    require assisted living facilities in years to come, and in some cases they
    need it now for their aging parents. I agree with the article and some
    postings, where quality of life of most of seniors who are dependent on their
    children is severely diminished. Please see the Facebook page of an
    organization which is working on setting up a facility in the NY Tri-State
    area….

    Wasalaam

  6. Zaiton Jamaluddin

    June 15, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    If one is to follow strictly the Islamic teachings, the onus to care for aged parents fall on the sons and not daughters, as daughters are expected to take care of her own family ie. her husband and children. (Of course they can and should help if their husbands agree). However, in reality it is difficult even for the sons and willing daughter in laws are hard to come by. Sometimes people may have no choice but to consider old folks home for some family members. The stress of everyday life can make even the most willing person to break and cause unnecessay tension, which may make the parents to feel guilty of being a burden to their children. No doubt to win a passage to paradise and just to payback the many sacrifices that our parents had made, the best is to take care of them ourselves. However, if it is just not possible, than a Muslim-friendly facility could be considered as long as it is not prohibitively expensive. The most important thing is not to abandon the parents or other family members in the care of these homes, but to treat it like an extension of our own home. Very regular visits and taking them back to the house, outings to the mall, and even holidays etc should be part of the overall picture. Treat the homes as the old support system of extensive family network. The homes should also reciprocate to accomodate and support this model of interaction.

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