By Sheena Hussain
I do, I Care! Alhamdulillah, and it is one of the most rewarding things we can do during our life time.
Allah, the Most High teaches us that to care for the elderly and sick is one of the greatest acts dearest to Him, not to mention the immense reward it will carry in the Hereafter. But what happens when the carer herself is struggling— is it okay to reach out for help, or do you turn to family members, and is outside help a viable option? Worse still, what happens when the carer’s health is compromised? Let us take each in turn inshaa’Allah.
Caring for loved ones is an integral part of our society. Not only is it a moral obligation but it is becoming an upward trend amongst people in Britain who are opting to care for their loved ones themselves rather than seeking outside assistance from social care.
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) reminds us in surah Al-Ahkaf verse 15:
“We have enjoined man to be kind to his parents. In pain did his mother bear him and in pain did she give birth to him.”
First of all, to care is a massive responsibility: people give up their jobs, even their lives, to care for their loved ones, depending upon the care needs of the individual concerned, which often can be convoluted.
In hindsight, I don’t think I fully appreciated my role as a carer for the last 10 years. It is only when my own health was shaken after being diagnosed with “the big C” that was I able to fully immerse myself objectively into the world of carers and the important role and function they fulfil in today’s society. I learnt that I wasn’t alone: there are thousands like me and there is also a growing network of support, alhamdulillaah— it’s all about accessing it.
Depending on personal circumstances, (thank God I wasn’t the only child) I would say that it is quite alright to ask for help. Alhamdulillah I have 6 siblings all within close proximity to me and my mama, and we all have our own part to fulfil in the care of our loved one. My eldest female siblings are responsible for bathing her, my eldest brother is responsible for her routine appointments and check-up at the hospital as he has the vehicle adapted to her needs, and the grand-children (for those who do visit) have their own role to play— to come to nana’s house with lots of love and hugs for her, oh and lots of noise… it comes with the package! So as you can see, we have opted to devise our own care plan for her which works for us because of the number for people involved, albeit not everyone will have this luxury. If you are the only person in the cared person’s life then it is vital that you look into other options such as outside care from social services.
Having said this, many people are deterred from outside help. The stigma from our own community perhaps looking down at us in contempt that we cannot look after our own. There is also fear of strangers coming in, not knowing the sensitivities of different cultures. Also, the sad reality of the abuse of elderly people taking place, which has often been highlighted in the media. However, we cannot generalise because seeking that assistance can be a life line for some.
Before being diagnosed I was happy trudging on with the care by myself. In fairness the rest of the siblings were all married and leading their own independent lives and still living at home I guess I kind of settled into a routine. I simply saw her care needs as solely my responsibility. I must confess that many a times I found myself at the edge because of being overcome by guilt that I shouldn’t feel that her care is a burden to me or that Allah (swt) will be saddened to learn that sometimes I just did not want to do it.
But I am human and we all have different levels of endurance. There have been occasions when I sometimes raise my voice at her, because she is not listening to the instructions that I give her, which more often than not, are for her own benefit. Or when an accident happens just before I am due to leave, and the situation spirals out of control—a fully-fledged argument and then you are left feeling defeated, cancelling all your plans.
Alas, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, you get the whisperings that take you down to a dark abyss where voices echo, “you should be living your life, be out with friends, travelling the world…not doing this caring business”.
This is when I have to go back to the Qur’an and remind myself to remain steadfast and connect to the following verse:
Be good to your parents and should both or any of them attain old age with you, do not even say to them even “fie”, neither chide them, but speak with respect and be humble and tender to them and say : “Lord, show mercy to them as they nurtured me when I was small.” (Surah Al-Israh verses 23-24)
With the grace of Allah I am glad to say that even after my illness I am enjoying the care responsibility allotted to me, but I am still able to do other things: I have a social life, occasionally go out with my friends, enjoy my favourite walks and I’m pleased to say, I am seeing Allah’s beautiful world—since reassessing my mama’s caring needs after my own illness I have been to Palestine twice, alhamdulillaah. So it is fair to say, caring does not preclude you from living and functioning outside your caring responsibilities. It is all about achieving an equilibrium that works for you, and thanks to my own health adversity, it’s helped me attain that balance.
I press on with life now having dealt with my own illness and just hope that whatever we all do collectively as a family offers my mama some solace and comfort during her health trial.
It is also okay for me to have respite every now and then. Caring does require a lot of patience and sometimes can leave you feeling deflated. There are many organisations that offer support for carers where you can go on subsidised day trips, engage with other carers at coffee mornings and so forth. This support network is really vital and you shouldn’t be coy about accessing it, for some it acts as a life line; for others it’s a simple chance to engage with like-minded people who truly understand what it’s like being a carer and the silent struggles that come with it.
Having seen my mama’s illness and my own, I will never take my health for granted, with the permission of Allaah. I pray and hope that Al –Shafi keeps me in good health; and if I was ever to have a relapse then may He bestow me and others alike with good and compassionate carers.
A date for your calendars, 10th-16th June 2019 will mark carer’s week so please keep an eye out for great events across the UK showing support and solidarity with carers from all backgrounds all over the UK. Remember to show mercy to your cared ones and Allah (swt) will show mercy to you, Allah’s mercy is vast, and as Muslims, may we strive and set a precedent to be the best carers in this world, ameen.
About the Author:
Sheena is a budding self-published poet; her second collection of poetry “Divinity Lost and Found” is due out summer 2019. By profession she is a non-practising solicitor, a carer to her mama. She is championing cancer among BAME communities. You can learn more about her at www.poetrybysheenapoetrybyname.com and on Instagram.