Caring for Your Aged Parents—How?
“YOUR mother is becoming an invalid now,” the doctor said, “and so I think we should see if there is a vacancy for her in a rest home.”
The daughter responded with a start. So did her mother, but in a different way—painfully. The specter of a great, dreary house loomed before her, and she already saw herself sitting among unhappy old people. But the cheerful voice of her daughter brought her back to reality.
“Don’t worry, Mother. I’ll have a talk with Jan about having you come to live with us.”
Her mother shook her head. “Oh, no, dear child. You already have so much to do with your family, and . . .”
The daughter later wrote: “Her mouth said ‘No,’ but her eyes pleaded: ‘Please don’t leave me alone; take me with you.’”
Yet there are some very good homes for the aged. Would it not have been better for the mother to go into one of them? For now the daughter, in addition to the care of her immediate family, would have her mother to look after. Would she really fit in with her daughter’s family?
Undoubtedly, many such questions arise. And as the numbers of older ones increase, more families face these questions. Does the Bible give any guidance on the matter?
THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS
When Jesus Christ was hanging on the stake, despite his great pain, he had the situation of his aging mother on his mind. Evidently Mary was then a widow and, Jesus, faced with death, conscientiously was thinking of her care after he was gone. His fleshly half brothers had not as yet exercised faith in him; they were not his disciples. So Jesus committed the care of his mother Mary to John, his most intimate disciple. The Bible says of the situation there at the torture stake:
“Therefore Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved [John] standing by, said to his mother: ‘Woman, see! your son!’ Next he said to the disciple: ‘See! Your mother!’ And from that hour on the disciple took her to his own home.”—John 19:26, 27.
It is God’s will that parents enjoy great consideration, even as his law says. Thus Jesus was acting in keeping with the fifth of the Ten Commandments given to Israel, which says: “Honor your father and your mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.” So showing gratitude to one’s parents will be richly rewarded by Jehovah.—Ex. 20:12.
A GOOD ARRANGEMENT WATERED DOWN
However, as with so many other laws, the Fifth Commandment gradually fell into disrepute. Selfishly, many Jews began neglecting their parents, forgetting how lovingly they had cared for them. Later on, their religious leaders even dared to introduce the notion that the care of parents could be ignored, provided that religious duties were fulfilled. Jesus strongly opposed this error. He said that anyone who set aside God’s commandments in such a way was worshiping God in vain.—Mark 7:6-13.
Jesus’ disciples understood very well God’s requirement to care for needy parents, and even grandparents. The apostle Paul wrote: “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, then they should learn as their first duty to show loyalty to the family and to repay what they owe to their parents and grandparents; for this God approves.” (1 Tim. 5:4, The New English Bible) Did you notice the first duty of children? It is to repay their parents, and even grandparents, for the care they received when they were young. Yes, God approves of children’s taking care of their parents and grandparents who can no longer care for themselves.
In the world today there is little ‘honoring of father and mother.’ Rather, the attitude often is: “Let each man look after himself; I have enough trouble of my own.” The results of this hard mentality are plain to see: Millions of older people having a horrible “evening” of their life because hardly anyone cares about them.
NEEDS OF THE ELDERLY
Sometimes a person becomes as helpless at the end of his life as he was at the beginning. This becomes a liability in old age rather than the asset it was in babyhood. A helpless baby in the arms of its mother gets plenty of attention; but when a feeble person enters a room, hardly anyone may take notice of him. “Oh, he has had his day,” many seem to think.
Old age and tiredness often go hand in hand. Thus things that others quite easily can do may require great effort for older people. Even daily household chores can be beyond their capabilities, not to speak of thorough housecleaning, painting, care of the yard, and so forth.
Sometimes older people are so tired that they are unable to prepare a hot meal or do shopping. However, they especially need proper nutrition. Often they neglect fresh fruits and vegetables. And because older people often drink too little, they may begin to show symptoms of drying up or dehydrating. In turn, this can lead to drowsiness and confusion.
Many older persons would rather avoid noise and bustle. They prefer to watch the affairs of the day from a quiet corner. But remember that, generally, they continue to be interested in things around them. After a full and interesting life, would you like to be completely disregarded? Of course not! The worst “punishment” to which an elderly person can be condemned is useless loneliness. Yet if aged parents are put in a nursing home to get them out of the way, this may condemn them to such punishment.
However, this is not to say that, under certain circumstances, the best solution may not be a nursing home for your aged parents. Their physical condition may be such that they are essentially bedridden, if not totally so, and they may be in need of constant nursing care. You may have to work to pay the bills, and so are not able to stay at home to provide such care. No other member of the family may be in position to do so either. Some nursing homes have proved to be fine provisions for persons in such circumstances.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
One family said: “We let father and mother choose for themselves: a rest home or living with us. Their choice soon was made: living with us.”
But the question might be: How can we make room for them? While not every family may be able to, many have found that they could. If there is an attic, boys in particular like to sleep there. Or, bunk beds (one bed placed above another) in the children’s bedroom might solve a space problem. Perhaps the whole family could move to larger quarters so that there would be a room available for Granddad or Grandma, or for both of them.
A certain amount of forethought is required when taking a more or less infirm person into the house. It could be dangerous to have loose mats on the floor. Also, ask yourself: Is the light in the corridors bright enough? Are there handgrips on the walls of the bathroom and the corridors? Is the bed at a convenient height for them? Is there a bell to ring in case they need someone’s help during the night?
Doing nothing all day long is not wholesome, and certainly not for elderly people. There are many little jobs they might like to do—from peeling potatoes to babysitting (the latter if they are able to get about a bit). One Christian woman taught her blind mother to knit, which made the elderly lady much happier. If older people still are able to do something reasonably well, do not “mother” them, even if you could perhaps do the job more neatly yourself.
For elderly people, nothing can break up the day so delightfully as associating with children. And many little ones enjoy such association immensely! Likely nobody else besides Granddad or Grandma has so much time for the youngsters, or is able to tell stories or experiences that are as interesting as those they can tell.
If an aged parent no longer is able to walk, it may be advisable to get a wheelchair. At first, you may have some difficulty getting Grandma or Granddad into it. (“What will people think?”) But when he or she becomes aware that it will now be possible to get out of the house more often, generally all objections will be silenced.
Yet, what can be done for needy parents if they want to live alone or if they are put into a rest home after all? In such cases, some Christians have moved so as to be nearer to their infirm or lonely parents. Then, one of the grandchildren may be permitted to spend the night at the grandparents’ home. Or if they are in a nursing home, regular visits may be made on them. When such a move closer is not possible, a person may ask someone in the neighborhood to look in on his or her parents regularly.
Still, from time to time it would be proper to visit elderly parents or grandparents to make a brief “inspection.” Are they getting all they need in the way of food and heat? Is everything clean? Does anything need to be repaired? Are they perhaps growing lonely? How is their health? Remember, it is your responsibility to see that they receive proper care.
Above all, what your aging parents need is the assurance that you love them very much and that they are not a nuisance to you. Now and then put your arm around them in a friendly way and give them a good hug. An older person has great need of loving warmth and contact. And listen attentively when your parents are telling you something, even though you have heard it all before. It is very distressing for the elderly if they notice that people no longer pay attention to what they say. Feeling that they are not wanted can result in gloom and ultimately in an earlier death.
THE CONGREGATION CAN DO MUCH
But must faithful elderly Christians who have no believing children be deprived of all loving help? No, it is proper that the Christian congregation, “God’s household,” provide loving care for such faithful Christians who have grown old and infirm in the way of God’s truth.—1 Tim. 3:15; 5:16.
In this connection, one Christian sister wrote: “Although my husband is not in the truth, with his approval I have been looking after a very old spiritual sister (aged 86) for more than six years. I was moved by love for this sister; I saw her as my ‘Granny.’ At first, it was a heavy burden because she ordered everyone about, including the children. Jehovah really helped. The children, too, have learned how to get along with old people.”
Concerning another elderly sister, a Christian brother wrote: “She was baptized at the age of 76, after a hard and lonely life. Because she was a heart patient and also walked with difficulty, she had to have more care. She was then 81 and we were still young and had not yet been married two years. We have succeeded in making these years of her life more pleasant by visiting her every day, even if only for a short while. We arrange all her affairs, and my wife washes and cooks for her. The greatest gift we could give her was to name our son after her. She wept then and said: ‘Now I am really a Granny.’”
Others in the Christian congregation can do much to see that the older ones in their midst get the care that Jehovah God purposed them to have. Do you see an opportunity to aid others in this way?
AN ARRANGEMENT GOD BLESSES
Needless to say, it is no small thing to take your aged parents into your home. But consider some comments by those who have done so:
“It has been an outstanding witness,” observed one person. “The presence of an elderly mother certainly makes for unity in the family.”
Another Christian wrote: “Our blessings are that we have come to appreciate each other more as man and wife, and we have learned to endure.”
Yet another wrote: “When mother came to live with us she was an invalid. But step by step she has extended her work in the family and at the same time has become stronger and healthier.”
What will you do now if either or both of your parents should become infirm? Why not sit down quietly and “turn over” in your mind all the things your parents have done for you in your youth, and even thereafter. Ask yourself: Where would I be without them? What example can I give my children by lovingly caring for my parents? Also, what does God want me to do? His answer is: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it.”—Prov. 3:27.
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Jesus committed the care of his mother to his disciple John
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Christians are obligated to repay their parents for the care they received when they were young
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Many older ones need help. Can you do something for them?
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Aging parents are comforted by assurance that you love them