Narcissism is defined as a disorder in which a person has a conflated sense of self-importance. Those who struggle with narcissism generally display selfishness, a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and an inability to handle criticism. Based on this definition, you can imagine how difficult and exhausting dealing with narcissistic parents must be.
How to Deal with Narcissistic Parents
Living with a narcissistic parent is no picnic at any stage, but it is infinitely worse when you are suddenly in the caregiver position. It is certainly a challenge to care for someone who doesn’t love or care for you in return. You may often find yourself in angry confrontations, or dealing with emotional blackmail that leaves you upset, frustrated, and exhausted. Luckily, there are some ways to defend yourself against an aging narcissist.
How to Handle a Narcissistic Parent
There are some tips and helpful suggestions for how to deal with a narcissistic father or mother:
Avoid confrontation. If the issue is minor, it may be easiest to “cede victory” to the elderly parent. If the issue affects your health or the health of the elderly parent, try to find a way to align the narcissist's interests. For example, if the parent doesn’t want to take their medication because they don’t think their doctor knows what they are talking about, remind them if they keep taking their medication they won’t need to go see that doctor.
Determine your personal limits when it comes to how much you can take, set boundaries, and stick to them no matter what. This can be tough, especially if other family members who may not have an understanding of the situation feel you are not doing enough or doing something wrong. You may feel guilty or like a bad child, which is not the case.
Work with a mental health professional, like a counselor or psychologist, to help you sort through your feelings and learn coping skills to deal with mental and emotional blackmail.
Prioritize self-care. Maintain a social life and intentionally plan activities you enjoy to give yourself a break. Avoiding caregiver burnout is especially important here.
Dealing with a narcissistic elderly mother or father can be extremely taxing, and ultimately you may need to walk away. Professional caregivers often have an easier time dealing with narcissistic elderly people because they don’t have a history or emotional connection to them.
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Narcissism and Dementia
Several of those who have had experience with it describe narcissism with dementia as, “adding fuel to the fire.” Elderly narcissistic parents will often blame others for their forgetfulness as dementia begins to set in, not believing anything is their fault. Then, as they begin to realize their memory impairment and want to avoid embarrassment, they may withdraw from family members. Elderly narcissists with dementia also have a higher risk of suicide.
If you have to deal with a narcissistic elderly parent, it is important to remember you are not alone. No one has taught you how to deal with this, so seeking help is normal and encouraged. You can speak to a mental health professional or look for a support group in your area. Any type of caregiving requires taking care of yourself first, and it is even more important in this situation.