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How to Take Care of My Abusive Elderly Mom?

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Reply Date

Apr 10, 2017

Question

Hello, I have been happily married for 10 years and I have 2 children. My father died a few months ago and my mother was left in a big house alone. My brother works in another city and only stays with her at the weekends. He suggested that my husband and I move and live with her for a period of 1 or 2 years. We hesitated at the beginning because my mom has always been moody, rude, impulsive and commanding. But that was the only option, otherwise, I would be staying at her house by myself and leave my children and my husband at night! We’ve been living with her for 2 months now and our doubts came true. She still often acts spontaneously: shouting, shutting doors, striking, attacking me, and spoiling our kids to the maximum. She treats me as if I was still single and doesn't care about my feelings or those of my husband. I expressed my feelings to my brother, but he doesn't interfere because he knows she won't change and he wants us to stay. We are psychologically tired. My mother and my brother refused the idea of renting the house or selling it or even the idea of my mom moving to my house. I really need your religious opinion on this. Thanks.

Counselor

Answer


How to Take Care of My Abusive Elderly Mom?

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

May Allah (swt) bless you for trying to take care of your mom and putting up with her abusiveness. I am sorry to hear of your father’s passing; may Allah (swt) forgive him and grant him Jannah, in sha’ Allah.

I can imagine that it is a hard situation for you, your children, and you husband. You stated that you thought she would be moody, rude, impulsive, and commanding as she has been in the past. I am sure also that the passing away of your father, her husband, has exaggerated some of these undesirable and abusive actions. Sadly, it seems that she has had a history of being unhappy and taking it out on others. Or she may possibly have a mental illness which has been causing these actions and behaviors.

While I am not sure if you and your husband have kept your home previous to moving in with your mom, I would kindly advise that you consider other options for her care.

Unless your mom is sick or otherwise impaired wherein she is a danger to herself, you and your husband could move back in your home with your children. You may have to stay a few nights with her during the week; however, that may be less of a stressor than your whole family moving in and being there 24/7. I say a few nights a week because if your mom is otherwise healthy, there is no reason why she could not be alone at night.

She may be lonely for your father; she may not use to being alone at night; she may be fearful. You can stay with her at night during the week and get her use to being more independent during the day. Then, I would kindly suggest that you begin cutting down the night time stays by one night a week. You could begin after a few weeks or a month. After she has adjusted to being alone one night a week, then cut it down by another night, so you are there three nights a week. Keep cutting the nights until you are no longer sleeping there at night. While this may take some time, sister, it may be a better alternative in the long run compared to being abused, having your children in a hostile environment as well as possibly putting a strain on you and your husband’s relationship.

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The situation you are in now is toxic, and not only to you and your children. This arrangement of everyone living with your mom could also negatively impact your relationship with your husband as the stresses and pressures mount. You should not tolerate, nor should your children see their mom being abused by their grandmother.

Should you choose this option, sister, please in sha’ Allah, ensure that during the week you visit her and ensure she has the things she needs. Take her to the masjid for prayer as well as Islamic events so she can become more social and, more importantly, closer to Allah (swt). In sha’ Allah, try to get her socially involved with other sisters who are her age and preferably widows, so she can form a network of friends to do things with, who can relate to the grief she has been experiencing.

Try to find things she may be interested in doing, learning, or an activity such as a new hobby to not only keep her busy but one in which she feels useful and valued. You may want to take her to do some charity work at your local mosque; this always brings joy to the heart when we help others.

In sha’ Allah, your mom will begin to adjust to her new life without your dad, and she may actually begin to enjoy her life, thus, losing her angry, abusive ways.

If this option is not feasible and you and your family must stay, I would kindly suggest that you still apply the above suggestions in regards to getting her out and more connected with the Islamic community and sisters, hobbies, and interests. This will be very important in terms of her acclimating to a new life and becoming more secure and feeling less alone and isolated.

As far as her abusiveness and hitting you, I would sit down with your husband and make a list of behaviors which are not acceptable for your family. Hitting, yelling, being rude, and overindulging the children and so on. Sit with your mom, perhaps over a cup of tea or coffee, and state that you are happy to help her as you love and respect her, but that certain behaviors and actions will not be tolerated from her. Explain to her that for the well-being of the family and especially the children these things (list behaviors) cannot continue.

While it is her home and she is the head of her home, you also live there as she needs help. However, just because you live there does not mean you should be exposed to abuse. Tell her kindly yet firmly that you and your husband desire a calm, peaceful, loving home for yourselves and children, and if she feels she cannot maintain this peace and loving environment, inform her that other arrangements will be made. You may also want to suggest that she go for counseling or that as a family you desire for you, your husband, and her to go for family counseling to adjust to the new situation.

At that point, either she will try very hard to change, or she may become angry and refuse. If this happens, you will need to contact your brother and other siblings you may have to ask them to assist you with the situation as it is not your responsibility alone. You may also want to reach out to any siblings she may have.

This is in no way negating your Islamic responsibilities to your mom. As you know, it is our responsibility and duty to take care of our parents when they are in need, when they are aged, to check up on them and ensure they are made to feel loved, respected, cherished and wanted. However, in doing so, we are not supposed to be abused. We are to sacrifice, yes, but abuse is not a sacrifice. In fact, it is haram. You have sacrificed much by moving in; however, you and your family should not be abused or live in a hostile environment.

The Qur’an says that

“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful”.  (4:36)

Thus, we can see that Allah (swt) states “and to parents be good” right after stating “Worship Allah and associate nothing with him”.  So, it is a very serious matter. However, Allah (swt) will also hold your mother accountable for the abuse she has inflicted upon you in the past and currently unless she changes and repents. Sister, you can still be good to your mom and take care of her without having to be abused or having your children witness abuse. 

In sha’ Allah, some of the tips here may prove to be useful for you in your dilemma. You can still be a good and loving, respectful daughter at a distance if need be. In sha’ Allah, your mom will begin to have a change of heart if you sit down with her and discuss how she hurts you and how you wish for a loving home life. Pray for her, make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) that He (swt) softens her heart as well as heal any of her pains or illnesses that cause her to act this way. Allah (swt) is Most Merciful and hears our prayers.

Please let us know how you are. You are in our prayers, sister.

Salam,

***

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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