Follow
Share

My elderly mom is terminally ill...and a narcissist. She wants to remain independent as long as she can, and I'm very supportive of that. However she wants to be independent when it suits her, but she also gets mean and nasty, and throws her own pity party if I actually do something good for myself, or have fun. I know it's all about her need to control, and I try to set boundaries, but it does get very old very fast. (I am working with a counselor to help with strategies and venting).
Mom always complains about "controlling adult children who try to run their parents lives", yet my sibling and I do nothing of the sort. She's still cognitively fine, and there is no reason for us to be more involved.
Her biggest love and focus is her money. It would seem that is truly all she cares about, and that her children and grandchildren and now great grandchild mean very little, if anything, to her. She says very provocative things frequently (she will tell her doctors that her family wants her dead; and that the vultures are circling, waiting for her to die to get their hands on money they didn't earn). I call her every night to check in with her, but it's basically a one sided conversation where she talks about how awful adult children are, how awful grandchildren are because they have lives and can't come over to see her whenever she thinks they should. (The grandkids are married, have very demanding professional careers in health care, one has a child, one has a house, etc.) and they are very good about getting over to see her every couple of weeks or so, but it's not enough for her.
I go to every doctor's appointment, run errands for her, take her places when she doesn't want to drive, etc.
She spends her life dangling "participating in her will" over everyone, and saying " with the stroke of a pen" she can change everything and leave it to anybody she wants. And she's made it very clear that she will be furious if anybody spends her money on x, y or z.
I just don't know how to remain the dutiful daughter during this phase of her life. She's always been difficult, but became so much more so after my father passed away, and then her cancer diagnosis.
I made a promise to my Dad, who was a wonderful and loving Dad, that I would always be there for Mom. He knew how difficult she was. I think he'd be surprised at how much more difficult she is now.
The problem is if you call her on her bad behavior, she says the most vicious and hurtful things and always makes it all about her. Walking away is not an option, but she is exhausting and I am open to hearing about how others have dealt with a parent like this. I am practicing mindfulness, make sure I eat well and get fresh air and exercise...but I hate that I feel like I'm doing this out of duty, rather than love and caring for my mom.

Find Care & Housing
I like your response, Golden and handle my set of circumstances similarly. Very low contact has helped a lot. Narc mom with dementia has noticed the reduced contact and tries to guilt me about it, denigrates all family members to each other and the few friends she has left. What difference does it make? She tries to guilt us about everything.

Dementia prohibits the understanding of consequences. She has no idea why friends and family avoid her. Engaging with her negativity is absolutely pointless, and firm boundaries are an absolute necessity Strategies adopted by entire family are hanging up or walking away from excessive whining, browbeating, put-downs, pinching, etc. Since these typify 99% of Mom's behavior, visits are short. She's been largely dropped from family gatherings. Yes indeed, it's sad.

Resented from birth and parentified from puberty; I was sexually and emotionally abused and groomed to become her primary source of supply. I spent most of my adult life trying to fix her problems until I discovered she really didn't want them fixed. She just wanted to provoke, shame, belittle and watch the reaction.

As a child, I wasn't to blame. As an adult, I should have sought help sooner. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Now, the dementia rules, and responses must be managed accordingly. But I don't lay down and play dead. If Mom is obnoxious, I say "That's not nice," or "I won't listen to ugly things you say about those I love," or "I have to go now. I'll come back when you're feeling better." Even so, these visits are exhausting and depressing, thus the "low contact." I probably only see Mom once a month, if that. No guilt. No guilt.

Lifelong anxiety issues, depression, and migraines. She's the woman who gave birth to me, and I see to her needs, remotely if possible with the emphasis on needs, not wants. It's a hard line to take and hard to find a balance, but I'm not young anymore. I'm committed to taking care of myself so that no one else has to (for as long as possible).

Peace and understanding to any child who, in the absence of a mother, learned to self-mother.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to CantDance
Report

As another daughter of a narcissistic mother, I have trouble with the advice to try to see things from Mom's point of view or try to improve her quality of life. I'm also not sure I can go along with the advice not to confront her on her behavior. Sure, you can't change her. But you don't have to indulge her, either.

What Bettina said above about the narcissist wanting servants standing by wishing for nothing but the privilege of serving - that describes my mother's behavior to a T.

Maybe my perspective is skewed right now because I just had a little spat with my mother and she threw me out of her house. She had left a message a few days ago directing me to shop for a particular item for her house, which I felt was a waste of time and money and a bad idea for other reasons. When informed that I hadn't bought the item, she started yelling at me and demanding an explanation. I explained to her that I wasn't her servant. She claims she knows that but she was only asking me to do one thing for her, and couldn't believe I just wouldn't do it. Getting miffed myself, I told her I thought it was a stupid idea, and she yelled sarcastically. "Thank you for the support." I told her I didn't support the idea, period. She told me to get out and go home. So I did, resisting the impulse to leave with a snarky comment about biting the hand that feeds you.

As I see it, she's trying to use her anger to bully me into doing something I don't think is a good idea and don't want to help her with. I'm not having it. I do a lot for her, all the time. I've given up more than 7 years of my life to tend to her in old age. I'm not going to be bullied or disrespected. I had way more than enough of that as a kid.

Maybe my moral convictions are overly strict, but when someone behaves in a way that I find morally repugnant, I won't reward it, or indulge it, or even excuse it. My mother should know that about me, but she doesn't. She like me when I'm that servant standing against the wall. Otherwise, she doesn't. I'm not happy to have spent this many years of my life taking care of someone like that.

My mother has always been like this. She's worse now I think because she thinks she can get away with it. And maybe she can, only not with me.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to CarlaCB
Report

I found I had to reduce contact. Mother has borderline personality disorder and narcissism. I am a distance caregiver and I did give feedback at times. When I used to visit and stay with mother, if she got "difficult" I said my piece and left. Finally I stopped staying with her and stayed in a hotel. Expensive, yes, but worth it. When she got very hurtful in emails, I either didn't answer them, or responded that if she was so unhappy with what I was doing then I suggested she find someone else. She discharged herself early from rehab after a hip op and then said she needed help at home, no doubt hoping I would come down and wait on her. My answer was that she should not have left rehab early. She wanted me and a lady she hired to be the audience for her hip op - out of town which was maximally inconvenient for me. I said "No". I have found that arguments about the "No" answer are futile and distressing and have learned to set my boundaries without having to give explanations.

Not all seniors are like this even with illness. I have known a few who handled their illnesses very well up into their late 90s. I am 80 now, and mother is 106 so this can go on for a long time. I don't expect my kids to wait on me, though I do ask for a little help once in a while (not once a month).

To answer the question - set boundaries on what you will and will not do or tolerate. Develop strategies for dealing with the flack you get. Hang up, walk away, say "No"...

Good luck to you. I know it s not easy, and I know a narcissist will keep pushing the boundaries. That is why I reduced contact as much as possible and simply wasn't available, though I did what was necessary for mother to have proper care. It still took a toll on my health. Practice lots of self care!

And one other thing is to forget having that loving relationship with your parent and/or sibling that every child wants and needs. It ain't gonna happen with a narcissist. Develop close/healthy relationships with others.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to golden23
Report

So right Golden it always is what it is. All us "kids" can do is protect ourselves and make sure we don't pass this hell on to the next generation.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to Veronica91
Report

MbM,
Good that you have a counselor, they can be invaluable in this type of situation. You can deflect all your anger into your therapy session instead of at your mom.

Also good that you are practicing mindfulness by eating well, getting enough sleep, finding outlets for your stress, exercise, etc. The healthier you stay, the better it will be when you have to deal with her. Even caregiving from afar can wear a person down.

Develop "thick skin". Remember the "Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me." phrase? She is a narcissistic, terminally ill, old lady that can't see the forest for the trees. You don't have to feel sorry for her (I had a narcissistic Mom too and it's SO hard to feel bad for those kind of people!) but be grateful that you did NOT turn out like her.

If you have a faith, use it (pray, chant, light incense, whatever) to give over your problem with her. If not, learn to meditate. You Tube has wonderful meditating music free. It's amazing how many muscles in your body become tight and stay that way under stress. By purposely concentrating on them to relax, and focus on breathing, you will loose much of the tension she causes you.

Do NOT let Mom know what and when you do something to pamper yourself. Just keep your mouth closed on that. Why make her feel like you are pampering yourself but not her? Keep that as a secret.

Turn "off" your hearing when the nasty comments start. I agree with CM about walking away or hanging up, so as not to "take" the verbal abuse. As to the comments about her precious money, you could say you don't like to be threatened and if she takes you out of the will then that will show what you mean to her. It does not pay to argue. You know you can't win with a narcissist anyway. If you give an "I don't care" attitude, it defeats her power over you.

You could ask her to write out how she would like things to be. Pick one or two and see if you can fulfill those. It may mean something to her. Then again, she may just want more. Narcissists usually do.

Try to see narcissism as a disease rather than a chosen lifestyle. That helped me immensely with Mother. Also worked well with my ex-husband (with a different mental disorder). You can't blame them if they have a sickness and aren't "trying" to irritate you.

Step up and be the better person (as you know you are). Do the caregiving job with dignity and realize that this portion of your life will be over when she succumbs to the cancer. If a job is well done there will be no regrets.

Good luck.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to SueC1957
Report

Thank you for all the replies. Mom does indeed have metastatic cancer, so I often wonder if there has been some spread to her brain. They never image above her neck right now.

This behavior predates her cancer diagnosis. She's been a narcissist my whole life.

It was a little easier before my son had his child. He and his wife work crazy schedules, so I pitch in with child care since I'm retired. (And I'm delighted to be spending time with my grandson. It brings me great joy and happiness.). I also have a young adult child on the autism spectrum, which has its own challenges.

My mother is jealous that I have other demands on my time. She loves to use emotional blackmail. If she's not throwing out "I have enough strong medication to do myself in" or telling me that I don't have time for her anymore.

I am working on detaching with love, and not trying to use logic or reason to gently respond to her provocative statements.

I have told her primary care doctor about her "suicidal" type talk, since he is also my doctor. The problem is she's pretty good at looking "together" when she's with other people...although maybe she's not really fooling people like I used to think.

Seeing a counselor has made me see that her relationships with people are all only about her, and it's been a complicated and painful exploration of my upbringing. At the end of it, I feel lucky that I'm not anything like her.

I struggle with how to show concern/compassion without rewarding her negative behaviors. In the moment, when she's saying outrageous things, I don't say anything. I let her rant, and then I try to redirect the conversation.

I cannot unhear the awful things she has said to me. I cannot forget how when she found out that I didn't have the same genetic mutation that she believes caused her cancer, that she was disappointed and angry and cried because she was so upset that I wasn't going to suffer her fate. There are just too many things to even list. Each as crazy and hurtful as the next.

I actually practice "mindlessness" when I'm talking to her. I generally play candy crush while talking to her so I'm not fully engaged in the conversation. Mindfulness is for a different time.

She will lash out with horrible things, and then cry because she doesn't know what she'd do without me.

I'm grateful I found this forum. It helps to know I'm not alone!
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Minutebyminute1
Report

Wow! I just turned 53, and I am the only Daughter (3 Brothers) of a narcissistic Mother, who turns 80 in the fall. I moved back to town after my Step-Father passed, living in a guest house next door, to be near to her as she battles cancer and COPD. Besides always having been narcissistic, she is OCD and talks absolutely non-stop, on top of being verbally abusive and angry almost every second of the day. Just like your Mother, she acts like her four gainfully employed and successful children are circling her to "get their hands on her money!". Little did any of us know she was a millionaire?? Far from it!  Yet, she likes to portray herself to strangers as a pitiful little old lady abused by her "bully" children, when in fact she is the bully.  It's almost laughable, if it wasn't such a depressing situation. Yet, I've made the most of it. Unfortunately, I am the only sibling that lives near my Mom (and the only Daughter, which bring out my Mother's narcissistic competitive side), and so I find myself stuck with her company, as she's alienated friends and secondary family members alike. I jokingly refer to her as "Silas Marner", always counting her pennies, when she has no reason to. Rest assured, if my Mother could take her money with her, she would! The selfishness and stinginess that surrounds her hoarding of money extends to other aspects of her life. She thrills at buying all of her clothes at thrift stores, and I can't remember the last time she's been to a trained hairdresser. Too much money! Still - I read your article, and I said "this could be me"! I just left my Mother's house moment's ago, b/c she talks so much that you can't hear yourself think. I can only take her in increments. And lord help if I get in my car to take a drive or go to see friends!! Aren't I the selfish and self-absorbed one for needing "me time". Again, laughable.  And I'm stuck, too. Yet, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, since without me my Mother would likely be deceased without my care ("my care", which she never acknowledges by the way)! So, I grin and bear it, and when necessary I give myself breaks from her company, regardless of what she says or does. As most narcissistic parents are fond of doing - they have a propensity to want to pit their children against one another by bad-mouthing them. Had to have a discussion with my Brothers about needing their support ALL of the time, not just SOME of the time....or they could decide whom amongst them wanted to take my place here. No takers! Surprise....surprise! And none of them can stand to visit any longer than 3 or 4 days, because she reverts back to form after the excitement of "new company" wears off. IT IS EXHAUSTING! And there is not much you can do than to exercise SELF-CARE no matter how selfish it might feel to you. Also, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! NARCISSISM IS A DISEASE and is VERY PAINFUL to be around. My Mom is "textbook". Suggest you help yourself by reading about the topic, which will help you avoid landmines from time to time. Sending you a virtual hug, MinuteByMinute! You're going to be OK! I promise.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Rebecca1965
Report

Minutebyminute, Regarding your last sentence of your original post: at some point, caregiving for a person you describe does become a duty and not the labor of love that we thought it could be. I don't think it's wrong to say that. I had similar accusations made by my loved one followed by either throwing a pity party for herself or going immediately into some variation of "why aren't you doing more for me." She saw me killing myself providing care at home for her & would turn around and make accusations that I just wanted her in a nursing home. I really did start treating it like a job (there was no pay involved, of course. If anything, the caregiving actually cost me money.). She's a person who does not rely on logic and reasoning to get what she wants. She goes straight for the other person's heart & appeals immediately to the other person's EMOTIONS and the "poor me" aspect of EVERYTHING. And she gets away with it. She's just pathetic enough (and also rather charming at the same time) that people cater to her & have done so for decades. She preys on the sensitive hearts around her - meanwhile her own heart isn't quite so genuine. Focusing on the caregiving tasks themselves rather than focusing on HER helped me to distance a little bit from the emotions. It's easier said than done, but there's some hope there.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to OverTheEdge17
Report

"She just wanted to provoke, shame, belittle and watch the reaction."

@CantDance Yep, that's a big part of it. They weirdly feel better about themselves if they goad you into acting badly. They're trying to offload their own toxic baggage unto you.

I like what you said about offering your mother what she needs instead of wants. Ie
I know my Dad loves MLM and other scams, as he enjoys the excessive flattery and attention at start of game, but obviously not in his best interest.

@Golden, all I can say is Wow. You've been doing this for a long long time. You're words of wisdom are obviously hard won. I too learned the hard way (am still learning)

"Good luck to you. I know it s not easy, and I know a narcissist will keep pushing the boundaries. That is why I reduced contact as much as possible and simply wasn't available, though I did what was necessary for mother to have proper care. It still took a toll on my health. Practice lots of self care!

And one other thing is to forget having that loving relationship with your parent and/or sibling that every child wants and needs. It ain't gonna happen with a narcissist. Develop close/healthy relationships with others."

I really had to learn this the hard way. I let my dad and his drama cronies make so many demands on my time and energy by the time the dust settled, I was ill, unemployed and very much alone. Actually, despite him chiding me to the contrary, I think that's exactly the way he wanted it. I'm convinced he harbors a secret desire for me to move in underneath his bed, so I can be there 24/7 fulfilling his every need and alleviating his
chronic boredom.

I know a woman in her nineties that still lives alone, still works, runs her house and
surrounding estate with well chosen hired help. I think if you offered her the kind of solicitous pity and flattery the aging narcissists seem to crave, she'd probably slap you silly, lol. That's who I'd like to be when I'm that age.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to bettina
Report

It’s difficult to quantify how worn down we get. My Mom was easier than most. But the hopelessness of it all — combined with mom’s fading ability to reason — was an alternate universe like no other.

We are escorting our elderly parents to the grave no matter what. But some of the “what” is sh*t we could have never predicted.

Oh, and combine that with the monotony of repetitive tasks and “conversations” that go nowhere.

The advice is to shake it off when you walk away from each encounter. The reality is, each encounter stains us. Like the rings on a tree.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to BlackHole
Report

See All Answers