Is worsening narcissism really worsening dementia?


I am trying really really hard to understand what is going on here with the MIL. She has always been extremely self-centered, but it is getting worse and I am wondering if there is something else going on here. I am recovering from a hysterectomy. It has been less than a week and the recovery is going slow, but getting better. I have not been able to do things for the MIL, which we have made her very aware this surgery was coming (she lives across the street and lives independently). My husband has been picking up the slack at home after going to work all day and my teens have been checking in on the MIL for me every day. Last night, hubby went over to get her trash (we put it in our cans every week) and she immediately lit into him on arrival, screaming at him, and cursing at him. She said she could be laying dead over there and we wouldn't care (or wouldn't know, or something to that effect). He says she was using the F-word over and over, which isn't usually something she does. She said she was very effing pissed off at him. He told her he couldn't deal with her acting like that, got her trash, and walked out the door, all the while with her yelling at him out the door "you only care about your friends and your football" (she says this all the time). I felt so bad for him when he got home. He was so upset. It's like she cannot stand it that she is not the center of attention, even for just a few days. I haven't talked to her yet. I've been letting everyone else deal with her because she stresses me out so much and I'm trying to keep that down so I can recover, but now I want to just want to fight her. However, I know from years of experience that it won't do any good. I just don't know how to deal with this behavior and I guess I am searching for excuses for her by thinking it is a dementia issue or something because I cannot believe a sane person would act like this. I don't know if she has dementia or not; there are a lot of small signs I think, but it is hard to tell with her.

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Using uncharacteristic swear words is another small sign of dementia. It would be good to have MIL evaluated. Some dementia symptoms can be treated.

But, really, the diagnosis isn't the most important element right now, is it? You need to figure out how to deal with this, and it seems to me you are doing it as well as possible. Hubby did the right thing by leaving. You are doing the right thing by letting everyone else deal with her while you are healing. You need to come first. I can understand the strong temptation to have it out with her, but you know from years of experience that it won't do any good. And it won't do any good whether this is a personality disorder or dementia or both. MIL is not a person who can be reasoned into good behavior.

You guys are doing great.
Helpful Answer (15)

What alarms me in my experiences is how their narcissistic behaviors bring out such a fierce wave of emotions in me. I believe what we have to deal with and focus on is not so much their behavior but our responses. I wish I could be more of a Teflon woman and let it slide right off, but it is difficult- especially in a caregiver's position when I am all ready dealing with guilt, stress, and so forth. Be strong for each other. The emotional distress can be crippling. Peace to you my friend.
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I am so sorry you are going through this. Knowing that she is sick doesn't make it any easier detach and not take it personal. Changes happen with our parents and we have to adjust emotionally, too. I try not to take things personal from my Mom, but sometimes I am just disgusted. I try not to say anything because it really does not make a difference. Most of the time she is pleasant and talks all about herself. It gets very old, but I don't see her being around a lot longer. I know, this might not help but it is just what is happening with us. I live with her and I get out by going to the store almost every day. I have to get some fresh air. I have to see other people that are pleasant to me. Usually, that is other shoppers or the store clerks. Well, I just wonder who is going to take care of me if I live so long.
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My experience with elderly people in general is that their world gets smaller and smaller, and their concerns do as well. The circle closes in, until it's just them. I think of it as them going backwards, getting more and more babyish. There are no babies who aren't self-centered, and there are only rare old people who aren't self-centered as well.
Helpful Answer (11)

Thanks to all who answered. I still haven't talked to her yet. I did call her doctor's office and spoke to the MA and let them know about the behaviors that are concerning. I have been to the doctor with her before and I know he does not know. She can turn it off and on. I know she is ok right now because she has been sending me many emails of dogs peeing on pictures of Romney and other related Romney bashing, so I know that she at least has her sense of humor right now (if we were democrats, she would be sending us Obama bashing; this makes me chuckle).

I did go to a website mentioned on another post, I think it was daughters of narcissistic mothers. I read through all of it and printed out the 24 characteristics. She was everything on there to a T except for the physical abuse. It really was an eye opener. I showed it to my husband and he will read it tonight. I think it will help him. Even though it was about daughters, it applies to sons too. I can see some his behaviors and the way he is on some things are definitely a direct result of her mental/verbal abuse. I hadn't put two and two together thinking about how it was when he was little. She has always been this way. I know that does not seem earth shattering, but when you connect dots like that, it is an ah-ha moment. There were things in there that helped me out too; some things I have said or acted like and realize that it is hurtful to my kids. I think everyone is selfish sometimes but if you can recognize and improve, do it; and I will. The best thing about that website that helped was learning the identifying factors and then realizing it really is not you. It is very hard with her to not think you are not a crazy, unreasonable, horrible, uncaring person. Now I know I am not and neither is my husband or my kids.

I hope next time she goes to the doctor that they will do something (I know they can't fix narcissism, but can help with dementia). I remember years ago when she was in convalescence they gave her some antidepressants. It worked very well until she found out what they were and immediately refused to take them because there was no way she was depressed. I believe she definitely is, but she will never admit it. Funny though, she always says everyone else is depressed, but to her that means that they are crazy.

I know we can't change her. I expect the tide will go out again soon and then come crashing back in with her. I will continue to recover this month from my surgery and then I go back to work on October 1 to a new job, in Aging and Disabilities of all things. Reading through and through this website will make me a better case manager. It will help me understand more about family dynamics and issues with elderly care. It will help me with the MIL too. My goal is to get the anger out of me and help my husband get the anger out of him too. She gets us so riled up all the time we are just balls of stress, but it doesn't have to be this way and we will work through it, and it will continue to storm and calm, storm and calm.

Bless all of you and this website. I am so thankful I found it.
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It's like trying to argue with a hurricane! You can stand on the beach and shake your fist in defiance and DROWN!

OR --- You can take cover, try and survive the "howling wind(bag)" and clean up the mess afterward.
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harrah, I agree so much with you. As they age, many people get tunnel vision, both in their driving and in their personal lives. I have seen some think of an injustice, dwell on it and turn it over in their minds until it generates absolute rage. I don't think it takes dementia as much as it does an obsessive way of thinking about things. I have a feeling that the best cure for this behavior is for an older person to stay engaged. However, many choose to sit in the house and look at the walls or out the window, then blame others for the choice. If other people's experience is similar to mine, parents may refuse all invitations to do anything, then get mad because no one takes them anywhere. It's a no win, so it's best to just let it not raise the blood pressure too much.
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(((momsie))). You are right. My best friend read it too and said the same thing. I didn't send it because I had second thoughts. It did feel good to write it though, but I will just put it to rest now. I've got to remember to be the bigger person here and keep remembering that I am communicating with a brick wall. It hurts right now because I am the target of her anger right now. It is always at least one of us, but I'm the one who does the most and is hated the most. I know that's life. Thank goodness for all of you here and this website. I am actually pretty embarrassed that I posted that whole thing. I feel like my sanity is slipping and she is a nest of bees in my head all the time. Once I go back to work on Monday, it will get much better because I won't be sitting here dwelling on it all day.

Bless you and everyone here.
Helpful Answer (4)

"But now I just want to fight her"....this is something that you must not do.
Ignore her. It may enrage her even further, but my suggestion stands: Ignore her.
My heart goes out to your husband, her son, who seems to bear the brunt of her anger . Thank God she lives across the street and not in your house.
Take care in your post-surgery recovery./ Bless you.
Helpful Answer (3)

I agree with above two posts as saying something, or standing up for yourself really doesn't matter to people with a narcissistic personality with possibly dementia developing on top of it all. It is a stressful combination to deal with and often the only way to deal with them is to walk away, as your husband did. And you definitely need to recover and not take on any additional stress.

Having her evaluated by a physician would help - through my experiences, it was helpful to talk to the doctor on the phone first before the visit and discuss what is going on. Narcissistic elderly people can behave differently in a doctor's office as this is part of the disorder - and actually fool the doctor with how they can "turn it on and turn it off". And the doctor, unless previously informed, may not realize the extent of the problem. I learned to talk to the doctors ahead of time and it made a tremendous difference.

Hopefully, there will be a treatment for your MIL in the form of medication. This can take time by trial and error until a medication is found that works.

Meanwhile, since she lives across the street and is currently independent, you'll have the opportunity to be proactive as the situation will only get worse. Hugs to you and hope you are feeling better each day.
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