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.

{ 7 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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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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