Caring for an Aging Narcissistic Mother

by Michelle Piper

Caring for an aging narcissistic mother is hard.

As the child of a narcissistic mother, chances are that when your mother needs you most, your compassion has already been worn threadbare by her ever-changing demands long before she approached her frailest years.

You may have had to tend to her needs for as long as you can remember. She always came first, and certainly came before you. If her needs went unmet, it was followed by a narcissistic rage that could move mountains.

If you wanted or needed anything, it didn’t matter.

Unless, somehow, it served her needs.

But now she needs you due to the challenges of her age. Perhaps just as you’re barely meeting multiple demands of your own family, health or career.

You hoped your aging narcissistic mother’s drive to be the center of attention and make everything about her will subside, at least a little bit. Yet, this is often not the case.

Narcissism can worsen with age, especially when she may need your assistance to help her through her daily life due to illness or the general wearing out process. Caring for an aging narcissistic mother is a complicated process on both a physical and emotional level.

Paradoxically, an elderly narcissistic mother can pull at your heartstrings because you see she doesn’t have the capacity to manipulate or fight as she did in the past as her physical energy or mental ability decreases.

She may become less rigid due to the humbling nature of the aging process. When this happens, it may appear she has “mellowed with age.”

You may have a resurgence of feeling responsible for the lack of closeness with your narcissistic mother. If so, avoid focusing on guilt about, or longing for, a relationship with your mother that never worked as you’d so badly hoped.

An intimate relationship is beyond the will or capacity of a narcissist.

Sometimes, we can’t help our mother as much as we’d wish because we need to protect our own emotional safety. Perhaps you have long accepted you will not be truly cherished by your mother and she’s incapable of respecting your needs. Maybe all you can do is feel empathy from afar because you are too angry when you are close.

Regardless of your mixed feelings regarding your narcissistic mother, you may allow yourself to feel compassion, but not responsibility for, her needs or suffering. It is the opposite of narcissism, after all.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie January 23, 2017 at 11:53 am

UPDATE FROM MY EARLIER POST….My mom still hasn’t gotten an appt. with her pulmonary dr…..really thought she would get in last week. I still haven’t left the state yet to see her as I am getting things in order around here and waiting for the Dr’s report. No matter what happens, my health and mental well-being are important. Just in the last 5 days I have had some serious melt-downs over her cruelness to me on the phone. After that 5 year separation I said that I will, under no condition, let her do this to me again. So, here’s my plan. First of all I haven’t decided to buy a one-way ticket or pre-determine my length of stay. Once I get there this is my plan. It’s a three-fold one with each piece carrying the same emotional weight.. #1 My mother’s condition…is she more humble in person or cruel or the worst ever? #2 My sister and brother despise each other, both with slight narcissistic personalities, both value money above anything or anybody. How sad. All of us together in one locations..who know what I will be like. Them fighting, me crying. #3 How am I feeling. So with that…..If ANY of these conditions starts to turn BAD…..I’m out of there and heading home. To never look back again WITH NO REGRETS. I truly envy anyone who has a normal mom…because a normal mom would not treat her children like this. I love to work with elderly people and often am rescuing abandoned cats or dogs. My advice. Take care of yourself and do something that allows you to get love in return. My current rescue effort with 8 cats warms my heart and theirs every day I am with them…..I saved their life and they saved mine.

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Shelagh January 27, 2017 at 9:25 am

Good luck xxx

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V February 1, 2017 at 10:48 pm

I recognise so many of these stories, finding out about narcissistic mothers recently was like a light bulb moment for me, and explained so much. Finally, it’s her not me! I’m nearly 60 and am the only surviving child of an 90 year old narcissist. My late father was her enabler. My sibling died in childhood, and was the “golden child”, who of course is for ever perfect being dead! I’ve often thought that she thinks the wrong child died. I’ve been supporting my elderly mother’s emotional needs all her life, and now she’s elderly and frail, everybody expects me to support her, it’s so difficult trying to explain I have never had a normal mother, when others see her as being a “sweet old lady”. I live a hundred miles away from her, but she carries on as if it’s just around the corner, she’s been a hypochondriac all her life, and it’s even worse now she’s old. Her favourite tactic is to get someone else to ring me, and tell me she’s ill, and she’s going into hospital, so I have no choice but to come and see her again. I visit every 2 weeks anyway, she’s been sent to hospital so many times, for it to be declared a “panic attack”. She has no guilt about wasting healthcare resources, and none about getting me running down the motorway again, because that was the aim of the game, attention, and then she can ring her friends to get even more attention for being “ill”. Her GP won’t take responsibility for her as she’s in her 90’s so sends her to hospital for the slightest issue. I’m a nurse and she thinks she can pull the wool over my eyes, one day she’ll be crying down the phone, I’m so lonely, I’m so depressed, the next day if a friends visited, her ” depression” has mysteriously gone! She forgets which symptom she’s complained of the day before, so I can often catch her out.She’s a fraud and a phoney, everything is always about her, if I’m ill, she will always tell me how worried she is about “my problem” so I never tell her anymore, as she’s incapable of empathy. She’s recently been hospitalised for pneumonia, and at one point wasn’t expected to live, I feel really guilty writing this, but it would have been a relief if she’d died, she survived, and my endless torture continues. I’m fortunate to have a good supportive husband, who knows how difficult it is, but doesn’t fully get it, when I say I want to go “no contact” he’s says she’s your mother, and she’s old, you can’t do that! He had normal supportive parents so doesn’t quite get it, he still thinks one day she’ll feel remorse, but she’s a narcissist, so it’ll never happen. I say that if your husband is abusive, you’re actively encouraged to divorce them, but if it’s your mother, society seems to say you have to put up with their bad behaviour because a mother’s role is sacrosanct, even if they’re a monster! She tells me constantly that she loves me, as she thinks this will keep me running, but there’s no love there, her hugs feel as cold as ice. My mum has said terrible things about me but conveniently “forgets” these outbursts . She recently told my husband I was always useless, and I’ve only achieved anything due to her efforts! I have a university degree, and have been a senior nurse for years – my mother has no academic qualifications, and I’ve achieved what I have despite her. The only reason I still support her is for me not her, I guess I’m trying to prove I’m not like her, and also all that grooming has paid off, I’m still that child who wants to please her, even though I know it’ll never happen.

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patricia February 17, 2017 at 1:27 pm

i went no contact my heart breaks for you

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Judy April 3, 2017 at 1:42 pm

I am so sorry for you, but I feel like I am reading my own words. Blessings to you. I understand what you are going through.

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Lucy April 6, 2017 at 4:05 am

I too take care of an 80year old mother. Your story mirrors mine. Thank you so much for sharing. I have been told many times what a “sweet lady” she is when I know the truth. Your words really help. Take good care – of yourself.

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Youcef February 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Hi everyone,

My narcissistic mother is today 58 and I’m 29, I spent all my childhood being her confidant, with her all the time complaining to me about my father, my grandmother, the neighbors, etc etc.. she depicted herself always as a victim and a perfect person surrounded by bad people.

And I had no normal childhood with a caring mother who oriented me, all I was supposed to do was listen to her complaining and be her confidant, comfort her, agree with her that all those people (especially my father) were bad, etc.

Today whenever I meet her she would systematically use a very weak voice, claim that she is exhausted, that life is so hard (to make me feel guilty of not being with her), etc, then when her lover comes her voice suddenly becomes normal, she no longer looks exhausted, etc.. then I would understand that she is making her habitual manners of playing the victim in front of me.

She takes pleasure in looking like a victim and having people’s compassion, but I no longer blame her, her own mother was a narcissist who ignored her and she couldn’t have her attention unless she played the victim, so she kept that pattern during her whole life, even with her little children, seriously impacting their lives without realizing it.

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Justme February 7, 2017 at 11:40 am

What a gift to have found this place! My VN mom has just moved to my town, and I have began to doubt my own sanity. Like some of you, my sister committed suicide. I am the only one left and I am beginning to understand the struggle she caused my sister.

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Justme February 7, 2017 at 11:58 am

Having relocated to my town, we’ve done the establishing new dr routine. Within first visit new Prmary Care recommends cognitive evaluation. We went to one appointment where she had to answer a long list of questions which she was noncompliance and ended up mad but completed. Only to be told she had to come back two more visits to correctly assess her? Needlessly to say she went home and canceled.
This was a psychologist what kind of dr do I need to get a diagnosis? I have POA, but I’m not sure how much real power that has.

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Grendle March 7, 2017 at 4:54 am

Hi Debbie, thanks for your reply. I’m so sorry about your situation. Reading your post gave me a little hope.NC means no contact. My mum is 82 and now has Parkinson’s along with numerous other illnesses. I have just gone NC after they abandoned me after I had my op and I had to get social services to help me. My son has also started emotionally abusing me so I’ve also had to cut ties with him as the continued abuse is affecting my recovery from my operation. I also have a sister who I haven’t spoken to for over a year cos she’s enmeshed in the ‘blame and shame’.My ‘parents’ and my son now collude together to find ways to make my life more difficult. I am devastated at this situation, I love my son dearly(he’s 25) and I can’t get my head round this new abuse. I’m not on Facebook but we could swap email if you like. You do NOT owe your abusive family anything, don’t let anyone abuse you anymore, it’s like slowly being murdered.I’m only in the early stages of NC and it is tearing me apart. I’m living from one hour to the next.When I tell anyone my story they cannot understand why my family would treat me this way. They’ve put my life at risk for the last time, all of them. Thanks for reading Debbie, I hope you’re ok. Wendy

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Grendle March 7, 2017 at 5:06 am

Hi Debbie, thanks for your reply. NC means no contact. I’ve already written this once but it didn’t post. I’m sorry to hear about your situation with your mum. I thought mine had mellowed with age but I was wrong. When I came out of hospital after the operation I was promptly abandoned and left to fend for myself, by all my family incl my son. I couldn’t walk properly so I had to get social services to help me. Since then I’ve gone no contact with all 3 of them, including my son, which has broken my heart, but he is now being so emotionally abusive I couldn’t stand it any longer. So I’ve been ‘managing ‘ alone, not very well cos this operation takes months to heal. I’m often suicidal due to years of abuse and now because my ‘family’ abandoned me. I’m only 2 weeks into NC so far so I’ll let you know how I progress. My ‘family’ have put my life at risk for the last time . I hope things are ok with you, my mum sounds a lot like yours; everything judged by how it looks and what it cost. Wendy

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Alex March 19, 2017 at 7:56 am

My mother had a stroke at a very early age. I was only 13 and became my mother’s caregiver. I had to assist in all her daily needs and even had to help her shower. I hated every second of it. Those days still haunt me and I often feel guilty. I am 42 now and over these years I have realized my mother is a narcissist. Always expecting me to take care of things without regard for my own family life and career. She will pull and pull until she gets her way. She always expected me to take off work to take her to doctor appointments when my dad could have taken her or she could have taken herself. She still drives. She would say my dad could not take her because he had to work. She did not find me being a single parent to three kids and a full time job as an excuse not to take her. One day I just stopped and didn’t do it anymore. Then she would be passive aggressive in very subtle ways. She eventually moved on to bother my brother. My brother had to take off work to take her because my dad had to work. As if my brother didn’t have to work. All those years she could have driven herself. But she enjoys being catered to and taken care of. Two years ago my father had a massive stroke and now he is more ill than she is. I believe she is jealous that she is no longer the sickest one. But I see that now my father is behaving more like my mother with all the attention seeking. Constantly calling me to go see them and sometimes I do not want to use my free time to go there where there is misery and complaining and negativity. My mother has driven almost all family away because she is passive aggressive when they do not do things her way. She enjoys getting ill so she can go to the hospital and get a break from caring for my dad. Then she wants me or my brother to take care of them both and I do not understand that. Can she not see that we have to work and have car payments and mortgage payments and kids to take care of? She does not care as long as she gets her way. It is a constant tug of war with this woman and she does not regard anything or anyone but herself and her needs. I have recently had to go no contact with them because of her trying to guilt me into something I was not comfortable doing… Like caring for them. I get anxiety and flashbacks and my blood pressure goes up just thinking about it. It takes me back to when I was 13 and I had to carry so much responsibility caring for her. I cannot do it again and I do feel guilty sometimes. But other times I just feel angry and the expectations. She has voiced very clearly that it is my brother’s and my duty to care for them now and I just do not like being forced into things. I could not deal with the 20 calls a day so I called social services on them and went no contact. Social services asked them to consider putting my father in a nursing home since he is bed ridden and it is taking a toll on my mother since she is also handicapped, but they both refuse. Instead they just leave us voicemails with passive aggressive comments like “I hope my phone call doesn’t cause you stress blah blah blah.” I have gone no contact before but only for a few weeks or so, but this time I am going on 3 months. I wrote her a letter to explain to her why I did so and because I wanted her to know how I felt and I know she read it because she has left my brother a voicemail with passive aggressive comments referencing “what has your sister told you about me”. He also went no contact at the same time I did because he had just had enough. She became desperate for attention with neither of us answering her calls that she came to my house and started banging on my door and ticking her keys to my windows. She was not just knocking, but banging. Then ringing the door bell over and over again for about 15 minutes until she finally gave up and left. Then she moved on to my brother and she did the same thing to him. She disrupted his peace and sleep at midnight and again at 3 am with banging and continuously ringing the door bell and leaving voicemails that she had to talk to him and “what is your sister saying about me”. She is not normal and I cannot handle that stress at this stage in my life. She will not dictate to me as she did when I was a child what I should or should not do. She cannot make my life decisions. I am done.

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Grendle March 25, 2017 at 4:12 am

Hi Debbie, I’m so sorry to hear about your mum. I don’t think us daughters of narcissists know quite how to react in response to the death of our ‘mother ‘.. I suppose it’s like others have said that we don’t just grieve for our mums but we also grieve for the family we never had and that we deserved. I’m in the process of trying to have a little contact with my son, my mum and her husband have sort of appropriated an apology but it’s, again, empty and they’ve tried to blame it on me for ‘overreacting ‘ but I’m standing up for myself this time and I don’t really care about them now I realise how destructive they are to my mental health.on the positive side, I have a new rescue cat who wants to love me and be with me all the time. The only social media I’m on is Twitter, my name is Wendy Nicola Cain on it so you can contact me if you like.
I’m so sorry for your loss and you are in my thoughts x

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M's April 20, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Does anyone else have a NM who also has Munchausen’s? This has been a life mind bombs and emotional torment.

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