Did you know that it is our moral and spiritual obligation to care for the elderly?
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
How can parents and their adult children prepare for “the days of distress”?
What situations might indicate that your parents’ needs have changed?
In practical terms, what can you do to assist when someone is caring for an
1, 2. (a) What challenges do many families face, raising what questions? (b)
How can parents and children meet the challenges of changing
IT CAN be heart-wrenching to realize that your parents, once strong and self-
sufficient, are no longer able to look after themselves. Perhaps Mom or Dad has
fallen and broken a hip, has become disoriented and wandered off, or has been
diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Then there is the other side of the coin.
The elderly may find it hard to accept that physical changes or other circumstances
now limit their independence. (Job 14:1) What can be done? How can they be looked
2 One article on care for the elderly states: “While it is difficult to discuss the issues
of aging, the family who has discussed the options and agreed on plans will be better
able to handle whatever happens.” The value of such a discussion is best
appreciated when we acknowledge that trials that come with age cannot be avoided.
Still, we can make certain preparations and advance decisions. Let us consider how
families may lovingly cooperate to plan to meet some of the challenges.
PLANNING FOR “DAYS OF DISTRESS”
3. What may families have to do when elderly parents increasingly need
3 The time comes when most elderly people are no longer able to care for
themselves fully; they need some assistance. (Read Ecclesiastes 12:1-7.) When
aged parents can no longer manage on their own, they and their adult children
should determine the best kind of help and arrange for affordable solutions. It is
usually wise to have a family meeting to discuss cooperation, needs, and strategies.
All involved, especially the parents, should express their feelings openly and address
the facts realistically. They might discuss whether with additional help the parents
can safely remain in their own home. * Or they might consider how each relative’s
strengths can be used to care for the responsibilities. (Prov. 24:6) For example,
some may be in a position to give day-to-day care while others may be able to
provide more financial assistance. All should realize that everyone has a role;
however, that role may change as time goes on and some rotation of duties may
have to be considered.
4. Where can family members turn to for help?
4 As you begin care giving, take time to learn as much as you can about your parent’
s condition. If he or she is confronted with a degenerative illness, learn what future
developments you can expect. (Prov. 1:5) Contact government agencies that provide
services for the elderly. Find out what community resources are available to make
your task easier and the care better. The approaching change in family
circumstances may cause you to experience unsettling emotions—feelings of loss,
shock, or confusion. Share your thoughts with a trusted friend. Above all, pour out
your heart to Jehovah. He can give you the peace of mind you need to deal with any
situation.—Ps. 55:22; Prov. 24:10; Phil. 4:6, 7.
5. Why is it wise to collect information ahead of time about care options for
5 Some older ones and their families wisely collect information ahead of time about
care options—such as the practicality of a parent living with a son or a daughter,
making use of assisted living facilities, or taking advantage of other possibilities
available locally. They have seen potential “trouble and sorrow” from afar and
prepare for them. (Ps. 90:10) All too many families do not make plans, and then they
are forced to make difficult decisions hurriedly when a crisis occurs. This “is almost
invariably the worst possible time to make such a decision,” observes one expert. In
that rushed atmosphere, family members may be tense, and conflicts may arise.
Long-term planning, on the other hand, makes future adjustments less traumatic.—
A family meeting with an elderly parent to discuss needs and strategies
A family can meet to discuss how needs can be met (See paragraphs 6-8)
6. How can parents as well as children
benefit from a discussion about living
arrangements for the elderly?
6 You may find it awkward to talk with your
parents about their living arrangements
and the possible need for change. Yet,
many have said how useful those
conversations proved to be later. Why?
Because they offered opportunities to
make practical plans in an atmosphere of
closeness and understanding. They found
that an exchange of views in advance,
handled in a spirit of love and kindness,
made the decisions much easier when they
had to be made. Even when seniors want to
remain by themselves and in control of their own situation as long as possible, there
are definite benefits to discussing with their children what kind of care they would
prefer if the need arises.
7, 8. What topics would families do well to discuss, and why?
7 Parents, during such a discussion, inform your family about your wishes, financial
abilities, and preferred options. That will put them in a position to make appropriate
decisions if you at some point are not able to do so. Likely, they will want to honor
your intentions and preserve your independence as much as possible. (Eph. 6:2-4)
For example, do you expect one of your children to invite you to move in with his
family, or are you expecting something else? Be realistic and recognize that not all
may see things as you do and that it takes time for anyone—whether parent or
child—to adjust his thinking.
8 All should realize that problems may be avoided by planning and discussions.
(Prov. 15:22) That includes discussions about medical care and preferences. The
points addressed on the Health Care Proxy that Jehovah’s Witnesses use are
definitely topics to be covered during these discussions. Each person has the right to
be informed about, and to accept or refuse, treatments that may be offered. An
advance medical directive states the person’s wishes in this regard. Appointing a
health-care agent (where legally possible and accepted) can ensure that someone
who is trusted will make the appropriate decisions if needed. Those involved will do
well to have copies of relevant documents available in case they are needed. Some
have included such copies with their will and other important documents about
insurance, finance, contacts with government offices, and so on.
COPING WITH CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES
9, 10. What changes in an elderly person’s abilities may affect the help
9 In many cases, parents and children opt to have the elderly maintain as much
independence as their abilities and limitations allow. They may be able to cook,
clean, manage medication, and communicate without problems. Thus they assure
their children that they do not have to be overly involved in their daily life. As time
passes, however, if parents become less mobile, perhaps unable to shop, or they
begin to suffer from severe memory lapses, children may need to respond to such
10 Confusion, depression, incontinence, and loss of hearing, sight, and memory may
be a result of aging; yet, if some of such health problems appear, they may well be
effectively treated. At the onset of any such issues, seek medical attention. Children
may need to take the initiative in this regard. At a certain point, they may also have to
start taking the lead in what was previously the parent’s realm of personal activities.
In order to optimize the care that parents receive, children may have to become their
advocates, secretaries, chauffeurs, and so on.—Prov. 3:27.
11. What can be done to minimize the unsettling effects of change?
11 If your parents’ problems cannot be resolved, changes may need to be made in
their care or living arrangements. The smaller the changes, the easier the
adjustment will likely be. In case you live some distance from your parents, might it be
sufficient for a fellow Witness or a neighbor to drop by on a regular basis and then let
one of the children know how the parents are doing? Do they require help only with
cooking and cleaning? Would minor modifications in the home make it easier and
safer for them to get around, bathe, and so on? Perhaps all that elderly ones need to
maintain the measure of independence they prefer is the help of a home-care
attendant. However, if they are not going to be safe on their own, more permanent
assistance would be in order. Whatever the situation, investigate what services are
available locally. *—Read Proverbs 21:5.
HOW SOME MEET THE CHALLENGE
12, 13. How have adult children who live far away from their parents
continued to honor and care for them?
12 Loving children want their parents to be comfortable. Knowing that they are cared
for gives the children a measure of peace of mind. Because of other obligations,
however, many grown children do not live near their parents. In such cases, some
have used vacations to visit and help care for their needs, doing chores that the
parents are not now able to do. Regular phone calls—even daily if possible—letters,
or e-mails reassure parents that they are loved.—Prov. 23:24, 25.
13 Whatever the situation, the form of day-to-day care provided for your parents
needs to be evaluated. If you are not near them and your parents are Witnesses,
you can speak with the elders in their congregation, asking for their
recommendations. And do not fail to include the matter in your prayers. (Read
Proverbs 11:14.) Even if your parents are not Witnesses, you want to “honor your
father and your mother.” (Ex. 20:12; Prov. 23:22) To be sure, not all families will
make the same decisions. Some arrange for an elderly parent to move in with them
or closer to them. However, this is not always possible. Some parents prefer not to
live with adult children and their families; they value their independence and do not
want to be a burden. Some may have the resources—and may prefer—to pay for
care while living in their own home.—Eccl. 7:12.
14. What problems may arise for primary caregivers?
14 In many families, much of the responsibility of care giving seems to fall on one son
or daughter, the one who lives closest to the parents. Yet, primary caregivers ought
to balance their parents’ needs with the needs of their own families. There is a limit to
each individual’s time and energy. And the caregiver’s situation might change,
making it necessary to review the current arrangements. Is one family member
perhaps taking on too many responsibilities? Could the other children do more, such
as by taking turns providing care?
15. How can caregiver burnout be prevented?
15 When an elderly parent is in constant need, there is a risk of caregiver burnout.
(Eccl. 4:6) Loving children want to do what they can for their parents, but unremitting
demands can become overwhelming. Caregivers who find themselves in this situation
need to be realistic, possibly asking for help. Periodic help may be all that is required
to prevent premature recourse to the services of a nursing home.
16, 17. What challenges may children face while caring for aging parents,
and how can they cope?
16 It is upsetting to see the painful effects of age on beloved parents. Many
caregivers experience some sadness, anxiety, frustration, anger, guilt, even
resentment. At times, an aged parent may say unkind things or show a lack of
gratitude. If that happens, do not be quick to take offense. One mental-health expert
says: “The best way to deal with any feeling, especially one with which you are
uncomfortable, is to admit it to yourself. Avoid denying the feeling or judging yourself
harshly for feeling the way you do.” Talk with your spouse, another family member, or
a trusted friend about how you feel. Such conversations can help you put emotional
reactions in perspective.
17 There may come a time when a family has neither the resources nor the expertise
to continue caring for a loved one at home. Nursing care may be deemed necessary.
One Christian sister visited her mother in a nursing home nearly every day. She says
of her family: “We just could not provide the 24-hours-a-day care that Mommy
needed. Accepting nursing-home care for her was not an easy decision to make.
Emotionally, it was very, very hard. However, it was the best solution for her in the
last months of her life, and she accepted that.”
18. Of what can caregivers rest assured?
18 The responsibilities of caring for your parents as they age can be complex and
emotionally trying. There is no set of right solutions when it comes to providing senior
care. Yet, with wise planning, thoughtful cooperation, good communication and,
above all, heartfelt prayer, you can fulfill the responsibilities of honoring your loved
ones. By doing so, you can have satisfaction in knowing that they are receiving the
care and attention they need. (Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.) Most important, you can
rest assured that you will experience the peace of mind with which Jehovah blesses
those who honor their parents.—Phil. 4:7.
APPRECIATIVE CARE GIVING
One sister lives a four-hour drive from her parents. Along with her three siblings, she
helps care for her elderly parents, one of whom is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
She says: “I am struck by the wisdom of Jesus’ words: ‘Never be anxious about the
next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Each day has enough of its own
troubles.’ There is nothing we can do to stop the disease. Our goal is to do what we
can each day to make Mom and Dad feel as secure as possible. They did so much
for us, and I am grateful to be able to care for them now.” Surely Jehovah approves
of such sentiments.—Matt. 6:34; Ps. 68:19.
(watchtower - March 15)
|PROVIDING CARE FOR THE ELDERLY
“Little children, we should love, not in word or with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”
—1 JOHN 3:18.
We must make it a point to honor the elderly...
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
How does Jehovah view faithful older ones?
What responsibilities do adult children have toward their aging parents?
How can congregations honor the aged among them?
1. In what sad state does humanity find itself?
JEHOVAH never intended for humans to suffer the debilitating effects of aging. On the
contrary, his purpose was that men and women enjoy perfect health in Paradise. But
now “all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain.” (Rom. 8:22) How do
you think God must feel when he observes the ravages of sin in humans? Moreover,
many elderly ones experience neglect at a time in their lives when they need more
assistance.—Ps. 39:5; 2 Tim. 3:3.
2. Why do Christians have particular regard for the elderly?
2 Jehovah’s people are grateful that there are elderly ones in the congregations. We
benefit from their wisdom and are inspired by their example of faith. Many of us are
related to one or more of these dear older ones. Yet, whether we are related to elderly
brothers and sisters or not, we take an interest in their welfare. (Gal. 6:10; 1 Pet. 1:22)
It will benefit all of us to examine God’s view of the elderly. We will also consider the
responsibilities of family members as well as the congregation with regard to our
beloved older ones.
“DO NOT CAST ME OFF”
3, 4. (a) What significant request did the writer of Psalm 71 make to Jehovah?
(b) What can senior members of the congregation ask of God?
3 “Do not cast me off in my old age; do not abandon me when my strength fails,” the
inspired writer of Psalm 71:9 implored God. This psalm appears to be a continuation of
Psalm 70, which bears the superscription “Of David.” So David likely made the request
we read at Psalm 71:9. He served God from his youth to his advanced years, and
Jehovah used him in mighty ways. (1 Sam. 17:33-37, 50; 1 Ki. 2:1-3, 10) Even so,
David felt the need to ask Jehovah to continue to show him favor.—Read Psalm 71:17,
4 Many today are like David. Despite advancing years and “days of distress,” they
continue to praise God to the best of their ability. (Eccl. 12:1-7) Many of them may not
be able to do all that they once did in various aspects of life, including the ministry. But
they too can implore Jehovah to continue to smile on them and take care of them. Such
faithful older ones can be sure that God will answer their prayers. After all, those
prayers echo the same legitimate concerns that David expressed under divine
5. How does Jehovah view faithful older ones?
5 The Scriptures make it plain that Jehovah highly values faithful older ones and that
he expects his servants to honor such ones. (Ps. 22:24-26; Prov. 16:31; 20:29) “Before
gray hair you should rise up, and you must show honor to an older man, and you must
be in fear of your God. I am Jehovah,” says Leviticus 19:32. Yes, honoring the older
ones in the congregation was a serious responsibility when those words were written,
and it is down to this day. What, though, about actually providing care for them? Whose
responsibility is that?
THE FAMILY’S RESPONSIBILITY
6. What example did Jesus set in caring for a parent?
6 God’s Word tells us: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:2) Jesus
underscored this commandment by condemning the Pharisees and scribes who refused
to provide for their parents. (Mark 7:5, 10-13) Jesus himself set a good example. For
instance, when he was at the point of death on the stake, Jesus entrusted the care of
his mother, who was apparently then a widow, to his beloved disciple John.—John 19:
7. (a) The apostle Paul set out what principle about providing for parents? (b)
What is the context of Paul’s words?
7 The apostle Paul was inspired to write that believers should provide for their own
households. (Read 1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16.) Consider the context of what Paul wrote to
Timothy. Paul discussed who might and who might not qualify to receive financial
support from the congregation. He made it plain that believing children, grandchildren,
and other relatives of elderly widows were to be the primary providers. Thus, no
unnecessary financial burden would be on the congregation. Likewise today, one of the
ways in which Christians practice “godly devotion” is by providing materially for relatives
8. What wisdom is evident in the Bible’s offering no specific solutions when it
comes to caring for elderly parents?
8 Simply put, adult Christian children have an obligation to make sure that their parents’
material needs are met. Paul was discussing believing relatives, but parents who are
not members of the Christian congregation should not be neglected. Exactly how
children provide care varies. No two situations are alike. The needs, temperament, and
health of those involved differ. Some older ones have many children; others just one
child. Some can count on support from the State; others cannot. Personal preferences
of those needing care also differ. Thus, it would not be wise or loving to criticize the way
in which someone is trying to care for aged relatives. Jehovah, after all, can bless any
Scriptural decision and make it work, which has been true since Moses’ day.—Num. 11:
9-11. (a) What difficult situations may some face? (See opening image.) (b) Why
should adult children not be hasty about leaving the full-time service?
9 When parents and children live far apart, it can be challenging to provide elderly
parents with necessary help. A sudden deterioration in a parent’s health, perhaps as a
result of a fall, a broken bone, or some other crisis, may precipitate a need to visit Mom
and Dad. Thereafter, they may need assistance—perhaps temporarily or perhaps on a
long-term basis. *
10 Full-time servants whose theocratic assignments have taken them far from home
may face particularly difficult decisions. Those serving as Bethelites, missionaries, and
traveling overseers all view their assignment as precious, as a blessing from Jehovah.
Still, if their parents get sick, the first reaction might be, ‘We need to leave our
assignment and return home to look after our parents.’ Yet, it would be wise to consider
prayerfully whether that is what the parents really need or desire. No one should hastily
give up service privileges, and it may not always be necessary. Could the health issue
be temporary, one with which some in the parents’ congregation would be happy to
11 Consider, for example, the case of two fleshly brothers who served far from home.
One was a missionary in South America, the other worked at world headquarters, in
Brooklyn, New York. The brothers’ elderly parents needed help. The sons and their
wives visited the parents in the Far East to see what help could best be provided and
how. In time, the couple in South America were weighing leaving their assignment to
return home. Then they received a telephone call from the coordinator of the body of
elders in the parents’ congregation. Those elders had discussed the situation and
wanted the missionaries to continue in their assignment as long as possible. The elders
appreciated this couple’s service and were determined to do all they could to help them
care for their parents. All in the family appreciated the loving concern.
12. What should be the concern of a Christian family regarding any care giving
decision that they make?
12 Whatever strategy a Christian family adopts to care for the needs of elderly parents,
all concerned will certainly want to make sure that it reflects well on God’s name. Never
would we want to be like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. (Matt. 15:3-6) We want our
decisions to honor God and the congregation.—2 Cor. 6:3.
THE CONGREGATION’S RESPONSIBILITY
13, 14. Why can we conclude from the Scriptures that congregations are
interested in the care of elderly members?
13 Not all can assist full-time ministers in the above-mentioned way. However, it is clear
from a situation that arose in the first century that congregations are interested in
caring for the needs of exemplary older brothers and sisters. The Bible says about the
Jerusalem congregation that “no one was in need among them.” It was not that all were
materially well-off. Evidently, some had little materially, but “distribution would be made
to each one according to his need.” (Acts 4:34, 35) Later, a situation developed locally.
It was reported that certain “widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution” of
food. So the apostles directed the appointment of qualified men who, in turn, made
arrangements to ensure that the widows’ needs were adequately and equitably met.
(Acts 6:1-5) It is true that the daily distribution was a temporary arrangement designed
to meet the needs of ones who became Christians at Pentecost 33 C.E. and who
remained for a time in Jerusalem to be built up spiritually. Even so, the apostles’
response illustrates that the congregation can help to care for needy members.
14 As noted, Paul gave Timothy instructions outlining the circumstances under which
Christian widows would qualify for material assistance from the congregation. (1 Tim. 5:
3-16) The inspired Bible writer James likewise acknowledged the Christian obligation to
look after orphans, widows, and others in cases of tribulation or need. (Jas. 1:27; 2:15-
17) The apostle John too reasoned: “Whoever has the material possessions of this
world and sees his brother in need and yet refuses to show him compassion, in what
way does the love of God remain in him?” (1 John 3:17) If individual Christians have
such obligations toward the needy, is that not also true of the congregations?
An elderly woman that has fallen and
dropped all her groceries If an accident
occurs, how can the congregation help?
(See paragraphs 15, 16)
15. When assisting elderly brothers and
sisters, what factors may be involved?
15 In some lands, governmental authorities
provide pensions, welfare programs, and
home-care attendants for senior citizens.
(Rom. 13:6) Elsewhere, no such organized
services exist. Hence, how much physical
assistance relatives and the congregation
need to provide for older brothers and sisters
varies from situation to situation. If believing
children live far from their parents, it may
affect how much help the children reasonably
are in a position to provide. The children would
do well to communicate freely with the elders
of their parents’ congregation to make sure
that all understand the family’s circumstances.
For instance, the elders may be able to help out by assisting the parents to learn about
and benefit from governmental or social programs locally. They may also observe
situations—such as unopened bills or mismanaged medication—that they can bring to
the attention of adult children. Such well-motivated and kind interchanges of information
can prevent a situation from getting worse and may well lead to practical solutions.
Clearly, on-the-spot helpers and advisers, who effectively act as the children’s “eyes,”
may alleviate the worries of a family.
16. How do some Christians help older members of the congregation?
16 Out of affection for beloved older ones, some Christians have volunteered their time
and energy to meet whatever needs they reasonably can. They make it a point to show
extra interest in older members of the congregation. Some volunteers divide the tasks
with others in the congregation and care for older ones on a rotation basis. While
realizing that their own circumstances do not allow them to engage in the full-time
ministry, they are happy to assist the children to remain in their chosen careers as long
as possible. What an excellent spirit such brothers show! Of course, their generosity
does not relieve children of the responsibility to do what they can for their parents.
HONOR OLDER ONES WITH STRENGTHENING WORDS
17, 18. What part does attitude play when it comes to caring for elderly ones?
17 All involved in the care giving process can endeavor to make the experience as
pleasant as possible. If you have a role in this, do your utmost to maintain a positive
spirit. In some cases, aging causes despondency, even depression. You may thus
need to put forth special effort to honor and encourage older brothers and sisters by
keeping conversations with them up building. Those who have a good record of
dedicated service are to be commended. Jehovah does not forget what they have done
to serve him, and neither do fellow Christians.—Read Malachi 3:16; Hebrews 6:10.
18 Additionally, difficult day-to-day arrangements can be made more bearable when the
elderly and their caregivers use humor at appropriate times. (Eccl. 3:1, 4) Many of the
elderly make a point of not being overly demanding. They realize that the attention and
visits they receive may be affected by their disposition. It is not uncommon for visitors to
comment, “I went to encourage an older friend, but I left feeling encouraged myself.”—
Prov. 15:13; 17:22.
19. What outlook can young and old alike have as to the future?
19 We long for the day when suffering and the effects of imperfection will end. In the
meantime, God’s servants must keep their hope fixed on what is everlasting. We know
that faith in God’s promises is an anchor in times of distress or tribulation. Thanks to
that faith, “we do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away,
certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18;
Heb. 6:18, 19)
(watchtower - March 15)
|HOW YOU CAN HELP CARE FOR THE ELDERLY
|HONOR THE AGED AMONG YOU
“You must show honor to an older man.”
Caring For The Elderly