Narcissistic grandmother with dementia, and Mom who has been victimized. Any advice?


Earlier this week I read an article on facebook about narcissistic parents and the damage they can do to their families. Wow. Aha moment. This led to internet searches, and I ended up here.

I have always known something was not right about family relationships on my mom's side of the family. Now I'm realizing my grandmother is narcissistic. I don't yet know where she falls on the scale, but I'm relieved to feel I'm on the right track after many years of feeling confused and angry. It's incredible to come across so many stories of others who've been through the same stuff. Hugs to everyone on this site!!!

I thought I'd post this topic to start a new thread, as my situation seems slightly unique from others. I'm the legal guardian and conservator for my 87 year old grandmother... rather than my parent...

In 2009, neighbors found Gramma early on a cold morning in their driveway hiding by their car. Police were called. She was taken to the hospital. Hospital called Mom and demanded she provide better care for Gramma. We realized Gramma was starting to have dementia. This is where the new chapter began. This whole story just seems so freakin' weird!!!

I didn't know until recently how bad Gramma has been to Mom her whole life. Mom later told me she wanted me to arrive at my own conclusions. I just knew Gramma could be prickly and judgmental towards Mom. Now Mom has been sharing more, and I've witnessed how venemous, sneaky, and manipulative Gramma can be. She has hidden it well. Most people only saw the charming side. But with dementia, she's not able to be as sneaky.

When I was growing up, Gramma seemed a little too nice to me (in a fake way), kind of strange, and I was always uncomfortable around her. Gramma and (step)Grampa always treated us much younger than we were. But, I really wasn't around her that much, which I now realize was a blessing, or a good choice on Mom's part.

Over the years, Gramma appeared like a very sweet lady in public. In private, she flipped back and forth from nice to horrible towards Mom. She's quite sneaky and manipulative. She does the smear campaign against Mom and makes herself out to be the victim. When Mom was growing up, Gramma would sometimes flip to being nice, get Mom to confide in her, then use those confidences against Mom. Gramma picked fights and went into crazy rants against Mom, always in private. Have to give the appearance to everyone else that all is perfect. Gramma is very vain, and is obsessed with eating healthy and maintaining her weight, even in memory care. Very concerned about what others think about her. Mom has truly never been able to do anything right in Gramma's eyes. Now that Gramma has dementia, the negative stuff has multiplied.

Gramma divorced when Mom was 3, and never let Mom see her dad after that. He died when my mom was 17, so she never knew him. Gramma says he was horrible, but we don't know if that's true. We recently found out Gramma had a child when Mom was 3, and put her up for adoption. She was the lucky one. We think my mom's dad never knew. Gramma promptly remarried and had what we always thought was her 2nd child. According to Mom, 2nd child was the golden spoiled child and Mom was the resented slave (probably true). Uncle's now a raging alcoholic and has no contact with any family, including his son. Gramma's 2nd husband sexually molested Mom until she was about 16. When Mom told Gramma about it, Gramma told her to stop being a brat. Mom never told anyone until she confided to me a few years ago. How awful for Mom! Gramma completely ran Mom's life, and was furious when she married Dad and escaped. (Are you lost yet? I am...)

So Mom and Dad have their own problems. They've probably suffered from depression, etc. They both have issues and are co-dependent. They have trouble making decisions.Their finances are a mess. Mom can be very negative (she tries not to). Dad is a dreamer. When Mom and Dad are overwhelmed and really need something done, they call me. Gramma is so mean to Mom, and Mom is not good at finances. I have a financial background and can deal with lawyers. We ended up making me Gramma's guardian and conservator. She's now in memory care (a relief to all).

After many years of confusion and a strained relationship with Mom, I'm finally understanding some things. I also had a rough time growing up, but never had sexual mistreatment. I think my mom has always loved me and truly wished the best for me. She did the best she could, but was reeling from her own experiences, overwhelmed, and somewhat unable to deal with life.

I was feeling guilty about not visiting Gramma very much, but I've had to set boundaries. I've decided it's ok to visit every 3-4 mos. My daughter is 2, and she's the most important thing in my life. I'm trying very hard to be a loving, supporting mom, and help her grow up happy and healthy! I want to stop this weird cycle!!

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You brought years to my eyes. Yes in saddness for you but more how more than similar is my life, though I would be your mother.
It's messed up. Its horrible to hate your mother. No one does that...not without good reason. It's not like I picked a unloving, selfish mom. Most moms are and why would you not love that. People think it's horrible to hate your mom and it is. Its far more horrible to hate your daughter!
She finds pleasure in my misery and creates a lot of it. My kids are adults now and they've always more considered her crazy but they limited their relationship with her. They didn't have her as a mother to get the full effect but sweet grandma she never can close. They watched our interaction and all thred have treated me similarly by example. My mother treated them tons better than she did me , yet it is fake. My mother treats them better to spite me. She had me removed from my grandmas will replaced with my children. As for hers she has me and my three children divided equally. But I may not even be that as she threatened not to leave me anything This past christmas when I wouldn't conform to her wishes.
Its beyond sad. It hurts to know it's true , not just me being sensitive or not trying hard enough.
I'm am just hoping for her to die so all the evil drama and pain will stop.
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Thank you for the update. You sound like you're a very wise woman and you've got things under control. Thanks for letting us know how you're doing. Kudos to you and keep up the great work! Hugs!!
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As an update to my story, Gramma passed away at 88 in March 2016. I continued only seeing her once every few months, except for doctor visits. I still took her to the doctor when she needed to go because it just did not work to have others take her. Questions would come up, and it ended up being so much work to follow up and keep her care organized that it was just easier to take her myself. She was in a transitional memory care building in the facility she was in for quite awhile. By Fall 2015, her condition had been changing. She was needing more help with the toilet, grooming, direction, etc. She moved into a higher level of care.

Around Jan or Feb 2016, her condition really started deteriorating. She was having lots of falls. She was often and even more anxious, and sometimes fearful and combative with staff and other residents. She was having a lot of trips to the ER by ambulance for falls and aggression. And if you're wondering, I did consider whether she was being mistreated as a behavior trigger and asked some questions, then decided - no. One time, she had 3 ambulance rides to the ER within 24 hrs. When picking her up from the last trip, I had them give her something strong for anxiety to hopefully stop the cycle of going to the ER, coming home, being freaked out, getting aggressive, then going back. She didn't want it, and I'm not big on highly medicating people, so I felt bad. But I decided that a few minutes of her struggling and not wanting oral meds to avoid a few more scary ambulance rides was probably the kindest.

One time after picking her up from the ER, she did not want to get out of the car and go back in. I sat with her and talked. She mostly mumbled. I took her for a scenic drive and just gave a running commentary on the spring flowers and trees. Afterwards, she was calmer and we went into the memory care place. I sat next to her on her bed. She held my hand, mumbled and mumbled, smiled at me, patted my hand, hugged me, and seemed to be saying, "Thank you for helping me; I know this is not easy," with her body language. Or maybe that's just me reading something into it. I think I'll go with thank you, because it makes me feel better about her.

I came down with a bad respiratory infection late Jan. I'm usually pretty healthy, but this knocked me down pretty good for about 6-8 weeks - right in the middle of her needing to constantly go to the ER. I've sometimes felt winded up until just recently - 6 mo later - Geesh! This was my first experience being the main person dealing with or in charge of decisions for someone dying. With having a 3 yr old, having a new(ish) and busy biz as a real estate investor, being really, really sick, and constantly going to the ER, I did the best I could, and forgave myself for the rest.

Mid-Feb, her doctor had us come in because she was having so many falls and visits to the ER. I was so sick, and I thought, "Uggh! Not another Dr visit." But once there, her Dr said it might be time to start hospice. This ended up being a big help. Hospice was great. I've heard others say that, and it's true. No more ER visits and constant "emergency" calls from the care folks. Hospice came to her. They provided a hospital bed and other equipment, and I didn't have to figure that out. I took apart her bed myself and hauled it away to donate it while taking lots of rest stops and sweating because I was sick.

She passed away in mid-March. Now it's August. I'm her personal rep, and am working with an attorney to finalize her estate. I'm rehabbing a house to sell soon. I finally worked out an agreement to finish buying another house I've been leasing, and renting out to tenants. Tenants have been out and it's been ready to sell for awhile. Now that paperwork was signed yesterday, I can now list it for sale (after I finish this post).

These past several years have been a helluva ride. I understand my mom better and am closer to her than ever before. She's a damaged, but beautiful soul... and a survivor. I dealt with stressful medical, financial and legal stuff relating to a Gramma I had never been very close with before. I worked thru disturbing family revelations. I became friends with an aunt I never knew who was adopted out by Gramma. I had my first child at 42. She is now 3, and is the light of my life. I worked thru post-partum depression. I quit my job and expanded my side biz into a full time gig. My hubby and I made it thru this without getting divorced (joking... kinda... he's a great guy). This year, her estate will be finalized. Go me! Looking back, I almost can't believe it all. Was I dreaming?

I post this to hopefully be encouraging to others. Do what you can and what you should to be healthy. It will be imperfect, you will be imperfect. That's ok, and you're ok. Life is messy, and sometimes it sucks. YOU ARE ENOUGH, AND YOU'RE AWESOME. Be happy!

Hugs to everyone :-).
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Granddaughter83 - It's hard to know and accept when a family member has dementia. My mom and I questioned it while it was happening. Gramma was pretty good at seeming fine, and other times, she was kinda out there. I totally get the feeling of not wanting to rock the boat and make Gramma mad. Looking back, it seems obvious. But we kept wondering and wondering while it was going on. It was hard to know when to step in and make decisions for her. Now when I'm around someone with dementia, I can recognize it. If you and your mom can find a nice care facility for your grandma to go to, it will be a relief. The memory care facility understands dementia and can help you. My mom and I had to search for the right place, the right fit.

Hang in there. I know this is tough. Take care of you. Take care of your spouse and kids if you have them. Don't get stuck being the only one or the main one who has to deal with things (speaking from personal experience here). Get support where you can, spouse, other family, friends, support group - whatever feels right. Read a book about narcissism. I liked "It's My Turn" by Tina Fuller. It's written from the perspective of someone who's been there, and is upbeat. It helps you understand and recognize things. It provides some practical tools for how to deal with manipulative situations.

For me, I'm trying hard to make sure my daughter feels supported and happy. I'm not too easy on her, and I don't spoil her. She gets discipline in a healthy, constructive way. I also hug her and kiss her and tell her all the time how much I love her. I tell her she's a good girl and encourage her to do things. My mom says she feels happy to see me with her because she feels like she is totally supported. And that's all any of us can do. Survive, take care of us, try to do better.

Hugs to you!
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Can I give you a hug? I too am the granddaughter of a narcissist (with what I suspect is dementia), and the daughter of an abused mom. Though my mom lacked the sexual component(that she's told me) she's still firmly within the grip of her narcissistic mother. I dare say she pushed me in front of that bus just so she could get a break from being run over constantly. Gee thx mom. Now if I could just get mom to stop playing the avoidance and denial game that you don't forget how to use a faucet or get lost walking across a parking lot for the only occupied building unless there is something physically wrong with your brain. That's where I am in my journey. Despite copious amounts of documented "moments" my mom is still playing the "she's just old" card. Which really boils down to, "we don't want to make her angry" more than anything else.
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My mother is a narcissist but I never went through all that your mom had to go through. However I recognize a lot of myself in the description of your parents (the worrying and not acting part especially) and I am afraid that I will reproduce some of my mother's behavior with my own children (even if I feel very different from her). If you were my child the last thing I would want for you would be to feel guilty and to feel that you have to do things for me. You should be your first priority.
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I am so glad you have figure out what is going on with Grandma and feel compassion for your mother. I feel so sad for your mother.

I just returned from a month long visit with my mother who now has pancreatic cancer. Her time is short and she has missed the opportunity to make things "right" because she has never been the one who is wrong. So even at death's door she is still the same old narcissistic pain in the butt she has always been. She will die that way and I will always be her scapegoat as long as I am near by.

I am now home and intend to not return until she has died or will soon do so. Even when I was in her home to help her, she disrespected me and talked to my brother about me behind my back. I could not nothing right. My brother was baffled at her behavior. I was used to it.

So you and your poor mother need to realize that this is not about you, it is her mental illness and always will be. Once you know that it is liberating to some degree and sad to another. My thoughts are with you.
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I can see how your parents have set you up to either want to over help or back off and not help at all, which would then make you question if you're doing enough. Those kinds of situations are where a good counselor can help you learn tools that can walk you through the decision-making process for when/if to get involved and how much you do.

I have always been a rescuer and have learned over the past 10 years to moderate my need to "fix or save" other people. I've learned tools to recognize when I'm doing too much, which becomes burnout in myself, where I get ticked off at the person I'm trying to help and wind up angry and feeling used. Now I set good boundaries much sooner and step back and realize that everyone creates their own life. I don't have to make them happy or solve their problems. I can offer support, if it's not too much of a burden for me. One of the best sentences I learned was, "I'm responsible for my own health and happiness and you're responsible for YOUR own health and happiness." Somehow I always thought I was responsible for everyone else's happiness too! What a burden to let go of!

Learning to recognize those patterns that we picked up in childhood can be so empowering. It sounds like you have a pretty good handle on how your childhood has affected you, so continue to hone those skills. And get support from your counselor and certainly come on here when you need some fellow caregiver love and support.
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Blannie - The boundaries are definitely important. I'm great at coming up with a plan, and following it... until something comes up with my parents. They just let something go and go. They think and worry over it. They might even do some research on it. But they can't seem to act on something until it turns into an emergency. And even then, they can't make a decision. They decide not to decide right now. They just get stuck. They've been stuck my entire life.

I try to stay out of things or set reasonable boundaries. I feel like I'm always asking myself what's reasonable. Do I get involved this time or not? How much do I help? Where do I stop? I feel it's reasonable to sometimes help parents and family members, but where's the tipping point where you're doing too much? Sometimes it's really hard to have a healthy balance. It's so easy to spend too much mental energy deciding where the line is. Then I start to get stuck dealing with my own things and have to back off from them. Then I feel sad because I've always felt like the parent to my parents. Then I get frustrated about how they can't decide on things, and go into a major "get it done!!!!" phase in my own life and start checking things off the list. And I think, "Whew, at least I can get my stuff done." Rinse and repeat. Aarrrgh!!!
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You sound like you've come through the fire with a very balanced and wise outlook. Good for you!! Just keep your boundaries with everyone and enjoy your daughter and work to build a healthy relationship with her, so you can break the legacy of dysfunction in your family.

It sounds like you've got it pretty well figured out with the help of your counselor. It's too bad your mom won't get some help from a professional, but that's her "book" to write. You can support your mom and your grandmother, just have healthy boundaries with them, since they've both got some dysfunction. Hugs to you!
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