( How to deal with an elderly Narcissistic mother)
You thought mom was a handful when she was in her prime. WELLLLLLLL Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.
Instead of softening with age and becoming a sweet old lady, she’s turned into the wicked witch of the west (my apologies to all self-respecting witches) seemingly hell-bent on your destruction- of your sanity that is.
At least that’s how it feels sometimes. Demanding, entitled hardly covers it. And you seem to have a target on your back. Haven’t you sacrificed enough for her?
You never guessed it would get worse as she aged. You might have even fantasized she would wake up one day and realize all that you have done for her.
But, alas, no such luck.
Instead, she is demanding as ever and oblivious to your needs. Now you find yourself wondering how to deal with an elderly Narcissistic mother.
When you aren’t tearing your hair out in frustration you either feel sorry for Mom or guilty for thinking such angry thoughts about a woman who is in her last season of life.
You’ve been a good daughter, giving until it hurts and then some. When will it be your turn?
While no one can tell you exactly what to do, I can give you some tips that have helped my clients as they navigate these treacherous waters.
How to deal with an elderly narcissistic mother – 12 tips to get you through
1) Understand what you are up against.
Is Mom narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic or have tendencies of these disorders? If so, the traits which make up personality disorders rarely soften with age. If anything they are likely to get worse. When you educate yourself about these disorders you will know what you are up against and be better prepared to handle it.
Aging itself is a narcissistic injury- we all have a degree of healthy narcissism inside of us and feel insulted by the ravages of aging. The wrinkles that seem to appear overnight, the stubborn weight that won’t come off no matter what, it’s a challenge for all of us to work through.
For the Narcissist, aging is the thing they are least psychologically equipped to handle.
1) Hope for the best but plan for the worst.
You are better off assuming things will get progressively worse because aging and all that comes with it usually follow a downhill trajectory.
When you plan for the worst you won’t be constantly playing catch up to the latest disaster.
2) Look out for your own best interests.
Chances are Mom hasn’t been looking out for your interests for a very long time. Yes, of course, that’s part of the problem. This is the time to step out of any denial and advocate for yourself.
Quite simply put, if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you.
3) Make peace with yourself and your decisions.
Get together with a therapist, a trusted best friend, or partner, and sort out what role you want to play, if any, in your mother’s dotage.
Pray about it and/or meditate on it and then make a plan and stick to it.
4) Take charge of the situation and be proactive.
Instead of jumping when she says jump, plan your visits and/or phone calls when it fits with your schedule. Take yourself out of a reactive stance as much as possible.
A proactive stance is always better than a reactive one.
5) Don’t be a martyr.
I’ve seen daughters sink into the victim role and get comfortable with being the child who remains at mom’s beck and call.
As hard as it is to face, there are no pots of gold at the end of that particular rainbow.
6) Don’t leave your sibling out of all the fun :).
Just because you’ve always been the one to deal with Mom in the past doesn’t mean you have to be the one to take all responsibility for her care now.
I know asking your sibling to take part is easier said than done but if you don’t speak out the chips will just fall where they’ve always fallen- in your lap.
7) Get help outside the family… if you are able.
While caring for your mom may be unpleasant to unbearable, chances are it doesn’t cost a paid caregiver the same way it costs you to deal with her.
If you can pay someone to check in on her, run errands, and do some of the work so that you don’t get burnt out.
8) Expect Mom to resist help but don’t let that stop you.
Mom may resist having anyone outside the family helping her. It drives home the fact that she is not capable of taking care of herself any longer. I know there is a disconnect here: she doesn’t mind calling you at all hours yet she is in denial that she can no longer live independently.
As long as she has you doing her stepping and fetching she can stay in her denial bubble.
And guess who gets to pay the price. You, that’s who.
9) Realize it will never be enough for Mom.
Don’t be surprised if mom just takes and takes and takes from you without ever being satisfied. Assume she will be a bottomless pit of need.
If you begin there, you can plan without chasing the hopeless idea that she will be satisfied if you try hard enough.
10) Let yourself matter, for once.
Mom isn’t looking out for your best interests. that’s your job now.
The truth is, she was probably incapable of looking out for you… that’s been the problem all along. But now with the stresses of old age, she is even less likely/capable of keeping your interests in mind.
The temptation is to endlessly count up all the ways in which she is unfair, thoughtless, and unfeeling yet it won’t get you anywhere- at least not anywhere good.
Now more than ever it is time for you to decide to protect yourself.
11) Don’t just “take” the abuse.
What we don’t pass back, we pass on.
If you just “take it” from Mom you are at risk for either internalizing it and becoming depressed or passing it on and traumatizing someone else. Intergenerational happens when one generation is traumatized, doesn’t get help, and traumatizes the next generation instead of stopping the cycle.
Vow to see the abuse stops with you.
12) Don’t lose sight of your life outside of your relationship with Mom.
At the end of your mother’s life, make sure you still have a life.
Don’t let the relationship you have with her take over. Realize your time, attention and care are valuable… even when you aren’t valued by her.
Hold close, the people who value you and replenish your soul and make time for them.
You can get out in front of this.
You don’t have to let Mom take you down with her through her negativity.
It’s never too late to learn what underlies your mother’s difficult behavior, set boundaries, and move forward with your life.
It can be a hard patch for sure but you can use the challenge it presents to flex (or find) that empowerment muscle ( even if you didn’t know one was there). Hard times can also be clarifying.
This is your moment. Use it wisely.
If you want me to coach you through it go here.
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