Do you cringe every time the phone rings for fear it’s your elderly parent?
Does your elderly parent refuse to accept the fact they need help; despite the evidence piling up around them?
Worse yet, do they create unrealistic expectations that send you on a guilt trip, when you “let them down”.
If so, you may be dealing with a narcissist elderly parent!
What is narcissism?
Elderly parents who are narcissist have a distorted view of themselves. They are overly preoccupied with vanity, prestige and power. They lack empathy and have an exaggerated sense of superiority.
Even as things are crumbling down around them…
A father who has held a powerful business position finds it impossible to “take orders” from his daughter to the point where he puts himself and others in danger.
A mother who has always been vain now has a difficult time accepting a walker because she’s “too good” to use one or it’s for “old people”.
What’s difficult to grasp about the narcissistic elderly parent is that deep down inside they are insecure and have low self-esteem. When they were younger, they over compensated for this by creating a world where they perceived themselves to have power and prestige.
Chances are somewhere in your elderly parent’s childhood life was full of anxiety and uncertainty. They coped by using certain personality traits that helped them survive. These personality traits over time can become deeply embedded, maladaptive and toxic.
As you can imagine, it’s difficult for a narcissist elderly parent to accept changes that come with aging, which at times makes it impossible for them to accept appropriate help.
You may be dealing with a narcissistic elderly parent if …
- They have grandiose ideas about their life and view themselves as being better than other people. Their grandiosity keeps them from being aware that they need help.
- Everything they have or do is the best, the biggest and the most expensive. They wrap their self worth up in their material possessions and their status in society.
- They are insensitive to the needs of others yet insist they are the most generous person in the world often reviewing their long list of wonderful things they’ve done for other people.
- They are jealous of people to the point where they put others accomplishments down or make fun of them in order to make themselves feel better.
- They can become preoccupied with physical problems and compete with their friends to have the latest greatest illness or health symptom on the market.
- They react with anger and rage at the slightest hint that there may be a decline in their abilities or health status.
- They own your success and remind you over and over again that you wouldn’t be where you are today if it weren’t for them.
- They see you as an extension of themselves and regard you as their lifeline to be available 24 hours a day.
Adult Children of Narcissism
When you were younger, you may have been particularly close with your parent. I was very close to my narcissistic grandma when I was a kid. Once I grew up and was no longer adhering to her agenda, we grew apart and she latched on to someone else.
Adult children of narcissist are taught that their feelings are invalid; the only feelings that matter are that of the narcissist and it’s your job to make them feel better about themselves. Consequently, you keep trying to save them over and over again only to be left with your own resentment and anger!
Enter that moment when you realize your elderly parent needs your help!
There comes a time for many adult children of elderly parents when we recognize the need to step in and help. This can be a moment filled with anxiety, apprehension and confusion.
It’s difficult to totally estrange yourself from a narcissistic elderly parent but I do not judge those who do. Sometimes you have to save yourself and your own family. However for most adult children, walking away is not an option for one reason or another.
The key to helping your self-centered elderly parent is learning how to help them without losing yourself in the process…
To survive caregiving a narcissistic elderly parent, you’ll need to learn to set healthy boundaries for yourself and make tough choices day in and day out.
7 Ways to Survive Your Narcissistic Elderly Parent While Helping them!
- Let go of the fantasy of ever making them happy in any meaningful way. Focus your energies on the things you can do for them such as securing quality elder care.
- Set specific boundaries and make it clear what you can and cannot do for them. Be consistent, constructive and respectful but very clear on setting boundaries.
- Lower your expectations of what they are capable of in terms of a “normal” parent relationship. A narcissist is typically unempathetic, controlling, critical and manipulative; you’re never going to change them.
- Let go of your anger and understand that these behaviors are an unconscious expression of their life long struggle against their own demons. Struggles that are deeply rooted in their own childhood.
- Bring in the professionals to assess and make recommendations for you. You’ll always wonder, if you’re doing the right thing, until a professional helps you understand what your mom or dad’s needs are.
- Sometimes it helps to understand the causes of narcissistic personalities. If you can re-frame your elderly parent’s behavior in a way that allows you to feel more compassion, you wont feel so resentful.
- Create your own support system of friends and professionals that understand YOUR struggle. Your support system will care for YOU when your buttons are pushed or you feel you want to run away.
The Bottom Line is This…
- A narcissistic elderly parent, if left unchecked, can leave you feeling angry, resentful and empty inside. You’ll spend all day trying to make them happy only to find that no matter what you do it’s never enough.
- Be compassionate and see them in a different light. Let go of your anger towards them by understanding their narcissism is an unconscious expression of their life long struggle and is beyond their control.
- Practice self-compassion by developing healthy boundaries. Those boundaries include seeking professional help to understand what your narcissistic parent is truly capable of doing for themselves.
- Empower yourself to care for them in a way that works for you. In a pro-active not re-active way so you can feel at peace with your caregiving duties.
My heart breaks for adult children and caregivers trying to deal with narcissism because I’ve been there; it’s tough stuff. Healing is not as simple as reading a blog post but I hope in some way these words empower you to move forward and find some peace, in your caregiving role.
Are you a caregiver for a narcissistic elderly parent? If so you probably have your own insight and advice. Feel free to share your thoughts in order to help others in your shoes…