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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dealing with the Elderly: An Etiquette Tipsheet

By Samana SiddiquiReprinted from Soundvision

How often is it that we see people, Muslim or not, uttering worse than the “Uff” Allah orders us not to say in dealing with their aging parents?

Keeping Islamic etiquette when it comes to our parents or seniors is hard in a culture that’s becoming increasingly rude and dog-eat-dog.

Below are five tips that can help:

1. Remember that the Elderly are people too
They aren’t cast offs, they are not burdens. They were once our age, young, with dreams, aspirations, in most cases families. They are individuals who have contributed to society by raising kids, working in a number of professions, and they were and can be productive now too.
See them as people, who deserve respect, the way your boss does, for instance (and none of us would dare blow our stack with our boss, right?).

2. Spend quality time with them
This means hanging out with them, taking meals with them, inviting them over. We’re less likely to treat someone we consider a friend rudely than someone who we deem a stranger.

3. Take a break from caregiving
If you’re one of the Muslims who, Alhamdulillah, has taken on the task of caring for parents who are seniors, take a day off from the “job”. Give yourself a break by asking help from a relative who lives nearby or a friend.
This will ease the pressure and stress, which can lead to a buildup in emotions, especially anger and frustration.

4. Give someone else a break from caregiving
If you know of a brother or sister who is taking care of his/her parent(s), give them a break. Take their mom or dad out for a day or just to your home for meals and to hang out. Do what you can to ease the pressure.
This can also benefit you if you never grew up around seniors. The experience can teach patience, kindness and you can even learn from seniors.

5. Be Patient
While this is easier said than done, it is necessary. While many of us tend to exercise patience with kids in the face of bad behavior, this practice is often thrown out the window when it comes to our seniors.

Think of them as children now too, part of the life cycle. They are frail physically as well as emotionally. There is so much emphasis on building the self-esteem of our kids, but we often see people tearing down the self-esteem of our elders.

We can only truly stop this practice with patience.

And a special note should be made of long stories, which seniors are often fond of sharing. Instead of interrupting or expressing exasperation, perhaps take out a tape recorder, or better yet, write down the story being recounted. That way you will force yourself to listen, and you’ll have a great historical document once the narration is complete.

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