I have been a caregiver to my parents for about ten years. During this period, I moved countries, completed my Ph.D., published a book, and recently became a certified trainer with the Productive Muslim company – alhamdulillah!
My friends kept asking me how I stayed focused and productive while juggling hospital appointments, surgeries, and being a full-time carer for my parents.
Below are my top 10 tips that I wished I learned when I started this journey, and I’m sharing them with you, hoping they might help you become a better caregiver for your loved ones insha’Allah.
1. Renew your intentions
It can be daunting to be a caregiver, especially for a situation that lasts a long time. At times, it may feel overwhelming.
During these low moments, remember that caregiving is not a chore; it’s a privilege. It’s your ticket to Jannah and Allah’s pleasure if done with sincerity and Ihsan.
Remember why you’re fulfilling this role and the reward Allah SWT will bless you with in this life and the next.
Remember that as slaves of God, we must submit to His tests and know that He’ll not burden us with a role beyond our capacity.
Trust in Allah’s Wisdom; His plan is always perfect.
“And perhaps you hate a thing, and it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing, and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” Surah Al-Baqara, Ayah 216
2. Ask Allah for Help
You’re not alone in this journey. Turn to Allah SWT in every aspect of your caregiver journey. Ask Him to bless you with Hikmah (Wisdom) and Sabr (Patience) to handle every situation with grace and resilience.
Always start any task with Bismillah and know that nothing can be done without Allah’s Help.
“My success is not but through Allah. Upon Him, I have relied, and to Him, I return.” Surat Hud, Ayah 88
3. Compartmentalize Like a Pro
The art of caregiving lies in compartmentalization. You’re dealing with an ongoing situation, and it’s essential not to let it overshadow every aspect of your life. Balance is key; don’t let caregiving consume you.
Remember that this is a season of life you’re going through, and this, too, shall pass.
Dedicate the necessary time to focus on your role as a caregiver but pay attention to your other roles.
Try to segment the time you dedicate as a caregiver from your other responsibilities and get help to cover the times you’ll be away (more on this below).
4. Pour Your Heart Out to Allah
Caregiving is stressful. And stress can create significant anxiety and fear, making you lose sleep and focus.
Unburden your heart through Duaa (supplication). Talk to Allah, express your fears, and seek His mercy and guidance. His closeness will be your comfort.
He SWT loves to hear your voice, He can solve your problems, He is so close to you, and He will answer your call.
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” Surah Al-Baqara, Ayah 186
5. Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
As hard as it is, try to care for yourself. Get some sleep, and nap when the patient naps. Eat healthy, and now and then, go for a walk or a jog to “work out the stress.”
To be an effective caregiver, you must prioritize self-care. It may seem idealistic, especially when things are overwhelming, but trust me; you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, recharge yourself to be there for others.
6. Ask and organize help
As humans, we have limits. Acknowledge yours and learn to seek help.
But don’t just ask for help – tell those around you exactly how they can help you: Create a “Caregiver Task List” of all the tasks you do as a caregiver and ask your family and friends to choose what they want to do.
If you can afford it, consider hiring a professional home nurse – even for a few hours daily or weekly. They can make a big difference in the caregiving plan. This will not only give you a break from being the sole caregiver, but you’ll learn professional tips that only come from nursing schools.
7. Get regular quality breaks
Staying cooped up at home or the hospital can be draining. You must change your environment now and then and leave the house or hospital.
Don’t think you’re a hero by being stuck in one place – it’ll affect your physical and mental well-being.
Go out and meet friends, attend events, and meet new people, or immerse yourself in nature – it’s therapeutic!
8. Master your breathing
When you feel the situation is tense or highly anxious due to the patient’s worsening condition, take a moment to breathe deeply.
Unfortunately, most people don’t use their entire lungs when they breathe. Deep breathing can help you stay calm and relax your tense muscles. To learn breathing techniques, visit Breathwork.
9. Rearrange your priorities
When you feel overwhelmed with life’s demands – consider blocking a 2-hour window for yourself and write down all the tasks and to-dos in your head. Then make firm decisions about what to do, delete, defer, or delegate.
Having a hard look at the collection of all your tasks and to-dos and making clear decisions on what to do with them would free up much mental space for you to focus on caregiving.
Overwhelm can be daunting. In such moments, reflect upon the Hadith of our Prophet (PBUH), where he said: “Give everything its due right.” and rearrange your priorities according to the rights owed to others (and yourself!).
10. Live in the moment
Remember to live in the moment. Accept the unique circumstances, and don’t beat yourself up for not being as productive as usual. Focus on what you can do right now, not what you could be doing.
As my friend Nevine always says: You must live in the moment and ask yourself often: What Allah wants from me NOW? This one question can help you stay focused at the moment and not get distressed about your situation and what the future holds.
As a caregiver, you’re embodying the beauty of Ayah 32 in Surat Al-Maidah: “And whoever saves a life as if he saved mankind entirely.” Know that you’re not just caring; you’re saving a life. You’re saving the life of someone you love by caring for them, cleaning them, and helping them live as best as possible. It’s a long-term commitment that Allah sees and will reward you abundantly for He is “Al-Shakoor” (The One Who Appreciates and Rewards Abundantly).
May your journey as a caregiver and life giver be filled with Barakah and Sakinah (peace). You are an unsung hero in the eyes of Allah SWT.
May Allah SWT guide, help, forgive, and accept. Ameen!
Suher Khirallah, Ph.D.