Is there any way to break the negative loop of being around a narcissistic mother?

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Dear Friends, I have posted here a lot, and some of you may already know my circumstances: I am POA for my 91-year old narcissistic mom who has vascular dementia, Alzheimer's, and a host of other health problems. She lives (unhappily) in memory care. I live a half-day's drive from her facility but fortunately 2 other family members, (full-time employment status and families of their own) help with her care. Church members (God bless 'em) pick her up and take her to church once a week. Once or twice a month I visit Mom for several days at a time to take her to her doctor's appointments. I believe it's necessary to take her to most of these myself as I believe there is no substitute for seeing and communicating with her doctors face-to-face to assess Mom's needs.


I've gone low contact because of longstanding issues between us. My focus is primarily on Mom's medical care, paying her bills, and managing her property. I try to minimize personal contact like visits and phone calls as much as I can. She has an abusive nature; a full spectrum of narcissistic behaviors that will never go away: lying, gaslighting, guilt-tripping, manipulation, slander, etc. Some of her conduct requires far too much cunning (ability to plan) to attribute to dementia. My apologies to those who believe otherwise; there's too much evidence to the contrary.


Despite this, I'm finding it necessary to respond to medical crises more often than I might wish. She is, after all, quite aged and these events keep happening more and more. I find myself balancing a tightrope of protecting myself and appropriate response to her needs. Care-taking duties have taken a substantial toll on my physical and emotional health.


That being said, one of the most wearing aspects of personal contact (which I minimize as much as possible) is Mom's proclivity for negativity. From soup to nuts, nothing is right and it's all my fault. You cannot redirect. Starting a constructive topic is pointless; there might be a 2-second pause before she takes up another complaint about some other circumstance that doesn't conform to her exacting standards; an endless loop of negativity. No one else exists on this planet. No one else has needs, problems, or heartaches. It's all about her. No joke; if I died today, she wouldn't blink but fume about who would take her to the dentist. In fact, on the event of my father's (her husband's) death, she was taken to see him for the last time. Afterwards, as Mom was escorted out of the nursing home, she pondered aloud, "What will I do now that my father is gone?" and immediately began a tirade about all my deficiencies.


Mom has now contrived an arsenal of slander against me, a convoluted mix of fact and fiction to discredit me to friends, family, and strangers alike. She will openly admit she "needs me." Shocking how she can treat the one who does the most with such contempt.


Some say I ought to "enjoy" Mom while she's still with us. Excuse me? Enjoy what? Others say warm and fuzzy moments (when Mom says or does "cute" things or lets an "I love you" slip) should sustain me. Sorry folks, those watercolor memories ain't happening.


I wish I had the conscience and the resources to go "no contact" and never look back. Believe it or not, I've evolved. Gone is any ambition to "win" Mom's love. Gone is the hope for the mother-daughter relationship I never had. I learned to mother myself decades ago. One thing for sure. It's made me strong.


If anyone out there knows how to break the negative loop, even for "the moment," please pitch in. Your suggestions are much appreciated!


Thanks so much for listening. If it wasn't for my friends here, ....well, I don't wanna think about it!

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The people who tell you to 'enjoy' your mother have no clue what they are talking about. Dementia or not I see no reason why you can't tell her that you don't have to be there. Let her have the facility take her to a couple appointments. Let her find out what it is like to not have the personal attention her own child brings to her. My father's AL takes him to all his appointments and his weekly ER run. I don't get involved in any of it. When I do visit he does try to get me to take him to the doctor or ER (his favorite hobby as I call it). He wants the personal attention.

Another tactic would be to cut the visit short once she gets abusive. Give her a warning and if she doesn't back off get up and leave. Maybe get only 20 minutes the first time but after that leave for the day. She needs to suffer the consequences of her actions. That is the problem I see in so many posts. The poster lets the elder get away with such terrible behavior and then can't figure out why it keeps happening. It happens because you tolerate it. So many blame the disease. Disease or not I am not going to put up with abuse from someone I am going out of my way to help.
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I've started saying, with a big smile, 'you're right, it's ALL my fault!' An ex boyfriend told me to just walk away - with no audience, the whining will stop. I don't think you can change them, you just have to change your response and it's really hard to do.
When I was due to have surgery, my mom's only question was if I still have life insurance. So warm and fuzzy....
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My Dad was very much like that! I finally just took yo turning around and walking away when he would start that crap! I told him many times that the day was coming when I would stop doing things for him.

But, I finally hired a wonderful aide for him. He caused a few to quit abruptly rather than deal with him...but the last aide was a wonder! She stood up to his crap, and one day put it straight to his face..."do you want me to leave?" He got real quiet...then said "no". He never dropped crap on her again,

From my perspective, it was great having her coming everyday...I just avoided him till she arrived.

Can you do the same? Do the absolute minimum and leave the NH to do everything? When Mom starts the crap..just ask "do you want me to leave?" If you keep abusing me, I will. Then leave it to her.

It didn't work for me...I ended up cutting my contact to next to nothing. It worked for my dads aide...maybe you?
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Amber, you say you feel you need to attend all of your mom's medical appointments with her. But as a factual matter, do you? Will someone from the facility take her if you're not there? Is that something that you could hold over her head (e.g. "You know, Mom, I could let the aide take you to the dentist/cardiologist/optometrist/nephrologist/dermatologist, etc., and not even show up, if you would prefer that.")

When my mother starts acting like a b!tch, I remind her that I don't actually need to be there at all. (My mother is not a consistently negative person, but she can be snide and snarky when I don't handle things the way she thinks they ought to be done). If your mother's attitude is not due to her dementia, then it wouldn't hurt to make clear to her that if she doesn't drop the attitude, she can find her way to the next appointment without your help. You might not wish to do that, but it is what I would do in your place.
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You cannot disrupt her negativity. Her brain is damaged. You cannot get through to a damaged brain. Detach from her and let the facility fulfill her needs.
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I've posted on this site about my narcissistic mother, and empathize greatly with you all. Great advice here, especially about allowing someone else to take your place whenever needed. You can be direct about why so your mother will see the consequences.
One thing I have learned from my narcissistic mother, is that she does NOT see me as a separate person, just one that is an extension of herself that she thinks she can manipulate into doing what she wants. I have learned to dig in and remind her that I am my own person. We just went through another tirade about how I'm not doing enough for her, and I really lit into her in the most controlled way possible under attack, and left. She called two hours later with one of the first apologies I've ever received (instead of the blame). Don't listen to anyone who gives you the advice that doesn't fit the circumstance. They haven't a clue.
I'm fortunate to have a great support system of family and friends who have all seen my mother in action. One of my best friends is also helping with my mother, since she still lives alone and refuses outside help. When it comes to that need, we will be making the best choices for her health and safety.
This site has helped to keep me focused and remind me that amid all this is ME, a person who also has needs and a life that shouldn't suffer because of my mother's unreasonable demands, guilt trips, and feigned issues.
It's important to point out that this didn't start when our parents got older, but started from an early age in our lives, and we are at the edge of our patience (or beyond) yet want to be as respectful, caring, and decent as we can with a person who hasn't truly appreciated a thing we've ever done or given up for them.
It's always been about them and it always will be. We search our individual consciences to find the best solution that we can live with and have no regrets. I can honestly say that after years of establishing and keeping boundaries and refusal to give in beyond what I feel comfortable doing, I am at that place.
Wishing everyone the best in this most difficult situation.
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I'm in the same boat - lots and lots of negativity from mom about her (six!) sisters, all but one of whom are in their 80s and with a long laundry list of ailments. I've started to go low contact with her too - I'm still really struggling and looking for a therapist. Just having a hard time feeling like life is worth living some days.

Hang in there.
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Hi Amber,

I'd go even less contact and tell her why. If she keeps it up I'd go no contact and tell her why.

My mom has narcissistic personality disorder. I was completely estranged from her for 15 years. I know how cruel these people can be while appearing to be angels to the outside world. I'm living near my mom again but now I confront her about what she does and how it damages me and our family and that helps. However, she doesn't actively slander me and if she did I'd be gone.

Please put yourself first for a change.
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lkdry: You'd be glad to know I finally just lost it on one of my aunts tonight. I have been listening to her complain (and complain and complain and complain) about how terrible she feels and how awful one of my cousins is... said cousin is a nurse and has saved this aunt probably tens of thousands in free health care. It's not a stretch to say aunt would be dead without her.

And you know what? I don't feel even a little guilty... maybe I should have done this months ago. I just flat out said 'what happened to my aunts who used to *care* about my cousins and me, not fail to notice how far we're going to help..'  and more.

Guess we'll see what the fallout is. I hope it involves her calling me to complain less often.
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I hear your pain. Some parents can be irrationally difficult, even if they are not elderly and in assisted care. My wife lives in a similar relationship to her 89 year old mother. Her mother's expectations and demands have been a problem for her whole life. Sometimes you have to recognize that a relationship just doesn't work, so you learn to take care of yourself first. Some who read this will think it's harsh, but being a parent does not give a person the right to abuse another, mentally or physically. I highly recommend you read "Toxic Parents, Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life" by Susan Forward, Ph.D. She addresses many of the issues regarding the kind of relationship you describe. Take care of yourself. That may mean less contact with your mother. You cannot allow your mother's manipulation, guilt and negativity to control you.
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