How Can I Deal With My Elderly Mother Who Refuses Assistance?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

My mother is very ill. Some days I need to do everything for her, some days she can do everything. Prior to this she was extremely independant and still has difficulties accepting help. My mother is refusing to move with me and my husband. What do I do? What are my responsibilities in this?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayr for writing to us.

May Allah reward you for your concern over your mother.

The situation is a difficult one, as your mother still very much wants her independence yet her health is an issue. Obviously you cannot force your mother to accept help, therefore your responsibility in this case is to do whatever you can, given the situation as it is, while always reassuring her that the offer of living with you is always open.

Understanding your mother’s position

Your mother’s refusal to move in with you might be for a number of reasons, such as not wanting to cause issues between you and your husband, or feel rejected again due to previous abuse, and/or it may be that your mother is afraid that she will lose her independence totally if she moves in with you and your family.

Also, in some cultures, it is not custom for mothers to move in with their daughters and son-in-laws, and due to this custom, the mother may not feel comfortable. I don’t know if this is so in your case.

Steps to take:

1. It may be that your mother will listen to another person other than her children. Try to get someone who is older and she is comfortable with, or perhaps a good neighbour, to speak to her about your offer.

2. If your mother’s health deteriorates to the point that it is necessary someone is with her, then get her doctor to speak to her, if possible.

3. If your mother still resists, then do not push her to make a decision or make her angry. Do what you can to help her, within your own limits, such as with shopping, medical appointments etc. You don’t need to do everything for her, but maybe just accompany her and help out when you can if she is struggling.

4. Visit her when you can, maybe with your husband so gets to know him more intimately, as this may pave the way for moving in later.

5. If you can’t visit then call her a few times a day to see how she’s getting on.

6. Buy her a mobile phone and allocate fast keys that directly call you or your husband if she needs you in an emergency.

7. Every so often bring up the offer of moving in with you again, and see if she is more inclined.

8. If security is an issue in the area your mother lives, consider security options for the home.

9. Make lots of du’a for her.

10. Finally, don’t burn yourself out by trying to please everyone. Speak with your husband and work out how to balance your responsibilities at home, towards your mother and towards your in-laws. It maybe that for now, something has to give. For example, your husband can go to his family sometimes without you, or home responsibilities are shared so you have a little more time etc.

May Allah resolve the situation for you, your mother, and your family in a manner that is satisfactory for everyone, and grant us all to that which pleases Him.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

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