Caring for a narcissistic mother, need advice on how to cope.


I am taking care of mom part time and today was peaceful but I get so worn out listening to her talk about herself and her needs all day.. I was telling myself she doesn't love me. I felt like an object in the room. It's hard for me to separate the job of caregiving and the nature of someone having lots of needs/wants and having a mother who is self absorbed. She is always telling me she loves me but I don't believe her because I feel like I'm an audience to her and that's why she loves me, for what I do for her....does she really love me? I'm SO CONFUSED. At times she is an absolute terror and goes into rages where she accuses me of really mean things and I have to walk on eggshells afraid I'll say something she'll twist around to shame me with. I don't understand how these narcissists can be jeckyl hyde like this? Anyone get what I'm saying? I read of a technique where you don't react to the person with any emotion....detach emotionally.

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AgingCare pages have described dementias--I think there's a page dealing with it, as a single subject. Have not searched it within AgingCare lately, but it must still be there, since so many have to deal with it.
It's pretty tricky, especially in earlier stages, for those closest to the elder in's kinda like a frog in a pot of water...start it out cool, the frog is fine...bringing it slowly boil, the frog gets cooked without realizing it's happening.
You can also Google "dementia signs and symptoms"
One site at the top of that list:
Gives some comparatives between normal aging and dementia.

Even knowing the signs & symptoms, it's real tricky to figure when "normal aging" becomes "dementia"--even professionals miss it--sometimes even when the elder has progressed significantly
--perhaps related to an elder being very good at "show-timing", as many are, until signs and symptoms get really advanced.

If one has any reason to believe, from their elder's behaviors, that OTHER mental ills have been an issue during the elder's lifetime, it might be a good idea to get evaluations sooner than later...
Many elders [and non-elders!] manage to get through life hiding some fairly dysfunctional mental ills--families just think they are having "moods", or "bad days", or, "that's just how things are", etc.
Fears run high related to mental ills; treatments for them used to be pretty horrible, back when our elders were trying to get by; they often avoided diagnosis at all costs, to avoid those horrific treatments
CUE: they might have avoided seeing ANY doctor for anything, ever, unless it was pretty cut-and-dried, like a broken bone--fearing a Doc who saw them enough, might witness the mental instability and diagnose it--whole 'nuther bunch of things to fear!
Things are much better these days.
Some symptoms of some mental ills, alcoholism, etc., may resemble dementias:
if someone has not been properly, fully diagnosed, they could end up being inappropriately medicated or treated.
IF other mental ills or substance use are going on, treating those might decrease need for other meds that fail to work or cause adverse effects, since meds focused on dementias, may, or not, be proper for certain mental ills or substance use.

In any case, putting legal documents and finances together, in advance of need, is very good idea.

I read that the narcissistic traits,, are also precursor personality traits of dementia. My mother has dementia, My 53 year old brother has all of the same personality traits.. I can't help but wonder if he is in the early stages or will be developing dementia.. Does anyone have any knowledge on this? Thanks

thanks so much for your response. I didn't know anything about well-checks! Also, I am guardian of my youngest sister (whom has a developmental disability), so I am not thrilled about additional care for Mom, admittedly :).

DGin GA--
I LOVE your solution!
Sure wish I'd thot of something like that when Mom was under our roof!

As for not taking it personally?
Wish I could--it would have been easier, if my siblings had not suckered for Mom's lies....they all live at distance; Mom would call them and lie like a rug.
Got them believing her tripe.
She managed to cut me from her herd, entirely, as none of them will carry a sane conversation with me, going on for years now. But they all act like it's me choosing to not communicate--and that's what they tell people. Not one of them admits they are the ones refusing to communicate.

I almost hope she now does that to the one who moved her in with them--but I'd feel bad to have that done to anyone.
It near destroyed me; I wouldn't want Mom doing that to anyone further...yet, revenge might feel just a little sweet, if she does.

PLEASE avoid feeling guilty about your Mom's condition---she got the dog, not you.
SHE chooses to only feed it and fail to do proper hygiene for it.

When someone exhibits narcissistic traits, there are usually other mental ills that go along with that, all of which largely have gone undiagnosed and untreated for years--or their whole lifetimes..
Do yourself a favor: avoid letting an elder who behaves that way live with you under your roof--those behaviors get far worse, and bad for your health!
You CAN call the health department about filth in the house
--or else, have officers do a "well-check" on her at her house: when you call 911 to request that, describe that you are "...unsafe living conditions...concerned house has filth that might cause disease or injury to the elder living there..."
Well-checks can be asked for, even weekly, if the elder might be in really bad conditions.
BTW--you would call 911 in the area your Mom lives in, not yours [unless it's the same].
Well-checks can help officials see when an elder needs more help than they can get staying home, and can help assess if they really need to be in a facility--and it removes that task from family members who may have been shunned or treated badly by the elder, or, in case the elder refuses help or counsel from family members.
It helps them get the help they need, sooner than later, and might prevent them becoming ill or injured from living in unsafe conditions that might not be able to be helped otherwise, by family members.

My mother is 71 and has trouble taking care of herself. She has been truly narcissistic all of her life and I've had trouble believing she has ever loved me. One of our current troubles is that she has a dog (she obtain about 8 months ago) that she has never trained. She feeds it and that is it. I will not go into her house because of the obvious condition it is in, and I feel so guilty about this.

DGinGA ... my mother used to do that when my sister would come to town. She was also doing it with my brother. And, in the beginning, when I was working more hours and my niece was sitting, while I worked, she did it with us... tell stuff to either of us that just wasn't true... and then we began comparing notes. It all boiled down to a pattern that mother has used all of her life... of complaining about this or that, to whomever, and wanting them to fix whatever it was that she perceived was wrong... instead of her handling her own situations... but, that might mean she'd have to give more in the give and take. She wanted everyone else to be the heavy, because she didn't want anybody angry with her. Mother isn't in control of her life anymore, and she wants things just like she wants them, when she wants them, period. That's the sad part about becoming disabled, to the extent that she is, you really aren't in control of your life, anymore, at least not as before, because real life human beings are caring for you, being your arms and hands, legs and feet. We went through a bunch of this for some time, until my siblings finally saw and realized what was going on. I would have really serious conversations with her, because I wanted what was best for her, whatever that might be. I offered to move out and let someone else move in. I just needed to know what she wanted/needed, so that I could go forward with getting my life in line with that. I am an out in the open, everything up front kinda person, so I did bring it all up at family meetings. She would never admit to anything she said, never has, never will. But, the end result was that it was confirmed, by all, that she wanted me there. She would still complain from time to time but it's only because she, like me, takes some things personal, on a bad day. In many ways, we've become like a grumpy old married couple.. and that's scary :o Coming here has really really helped, for real, because after having gone through all the junk, there's someone who finally can identify with the whole thing. Whereas I don't get out, alone, for time to myself, I do get her about to her social functions, as much as possible. And I try and find ways to entertain myself (this is one of them) and "change" ... it's not just her who has to change, it's me too... because everything HAS changed...

Smitty, narcissism, dementia, whatever your mother's problem is, let it be HER problem and not yours. When my sisters and I started caring for our parents a few years ago, we took my mother's ranting and raving very personally. She was a witch when it was just family in the house, but as soon as someone from Home Health Care was there, she would be just as sweet as pie - but the minute her daughter (whichever one was there) would leave the room she would start complaining about how mistreated she was and how awful we were to her and how we just wanted her to die and she was afraid to have us there caring for her. The first couple of times I heard this nonsense I came back into the room and yelled at her to stop telling lies about us. I would be crying and defensive and humiliated that my own MOTHER would say these things.

One day the Home Health Care nurse asked me to walk her to her car. In the driveway she told me that I needed to stop taking the junk my mother said so personally. She said the health care workers can tell when someone is being mistreated, and it was clear my mother wasn't. The house was cleaner than it had been in YEARS (they had been coming to the house a lot for about five years before we took over); my mother and father were clean, bathed, hair washed, clean clothes, etc. They were obviously getting enough to eat, getting their meds. The ambulance wasn't having to come to the house once or twice a week like it used to. She said that when old people - especially those with dementia - only sit around the house all day and have nothing to do but ruminate about themselves, they blow everything up out of proportion and look to have a pity party when any outsider comes to the house. She gave me a hug and said, "Don't take it personally!"

The next time a Home Health Care worker came by, my mother started in with the "poor me, I'm so abused..." nonsense. I walked back into the room and very calmly said, "Mom, if you think that your daughters are not providing an adequate level of care for you, then I will go out this afternoon and find a skilled nursing facility where you can get 24/7 care. We can probably have you moved there by the end of the week. Sounds to me like this is what you'd prefer. OK?" Then I just stood there and looked at her. (Sending the non-verbal message, "The ball is in your court, Mom!") She sat and stared at me and then looked down and said, "No, of course not. I wasn't talking about YOU!" So I calmly said, "Well, the next time we hear you accuse us of mistreating you, that is EXACTLY what we will do. Understand, young lady?"

Since then she's been pretty good, but I still use the threat when she starts getting out of line. And I think she knows I'd do it.

I agree with Rockhard that it is well worth it to seek a doctor's advice. Even the family doctor can give you something for her. A mild daily dose of celexa has made my mother much easier to live with. I doubt I could handle her without it.

Sue: I don't know what to say after reading all of that... It sounds like that's more than just elderly sickness (your mom, throughout your childhood etc...); Wow!! I'm so sorry you had to go through all of that, you just continue taking care of yourself.. I don't know, but I think you will still be there when really needed...(EMERGENCY).

Annet: I'm sorry, but that was funny (you actually made me laugh out loud), and this is the other way I cope, by reading others stories...and know, it's not just me.

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