How will you confront the realities of dealing with an aging or ill parent? When that parent also happens to be a narcissist, the choices become fraught with emotion and conflict.
If you decide to take care of your narcissistic parent yourself, then you have a whole host of old feelings to deal with, not to mention the challenges in caring for a narcissist. The narcissist is already demanding and self-centered. If they are old, incapacitated, or markedly ill, then that behavior is most likely to escalate.
To learn more about how to take care of your narcissistic parent, while still attending to your own emotional needs and psychological baggage, read on. You might also benefit from reading this post about how to live with a narcissistic parent.
Dealing with Gaslighting
You are probably already aware of the practice of gaslighting, a common technique of manipulation among narcissistic individuals. This entails accusing you of everything from incorrectly remembering events to doing something you didn’t do to behaving in a delusional manner. This behavior on the part of the narcissist arises in order to deflect any accusation about their own inappropriate actions and to preserve a lack of accountability.
If you aren’t accustomed to your narcissistic parent using this particular technique, rest assured they will almost certainly develop it under your care. Because they fear relinquishing control and losing their dominant role, they will do just about anything in their power to have you believe that their struggles are non-existent, the result of your poor memory or delusional fantasies.
Remember that you are actually in control of the situation, not them. They have tried to manipulate you all your life, most likely, so be cautious of falling back into old patterns of trying to please the narcissistic parent. It’s a thankless job—much like caring for them will also be—so remind yourself of who is actually in the right. Here’s some more information that can help you deal with gaslighting.
Dealing with Blame and Guilt
The caretaker of a narcissistic parent will also be inundated with more than their fair share of accusations and guilt trips. The narcissist cannot accept responsibility for anything—not even their failing health or inevitable aging. Thus, they will exert extra energy in blaming you for every little thing that isn’t to their liking and attempt to make you feel guilty for their condition.
This is partly out of a desire to still maintain the upper hand. For example, the parent might get angry or frustrated because they don’t like what you serve for dinner or don’t want to watch a television program that’s on. They aren’t complaining about anything of substance. They just need you to know that they are unhappy and that it’s your fault.
One of the best ways in which to handle this petty griping is to simply give in to their unreasonable demands—but only if it’s over minor squabbles. If you give in to the small tantrums, then you have more stamina to stand up to the important battles, like deciding when you might need extra help with their care.
Attending to Self-Care
It’s also crucial to make sure that you maintain a steady routine of self-care. First of all, it’s impossible to care for others if you’re not taking good care of yourself. You need to get enough sleep, eat healthy when you can, and exercise regularly. All of these things keep up your mental and physical strength to combat the stress and increase the energy necessary for a caretaker.
This also includes making time for yourself. Engaging in an active social life or indulging in relaxing hobbies or even just setting aside routine periods of alone time will help you maintain your mental endurance. You must continue to rejuvenate yourself as you handle the daily grind of responsibilities. It also reminds you to nurture your self-esteem and social confidence.
Consult a professional therapist if you have trouble processing the emotional burdens of caring for your narcissistic parent. Or, seek out support from close friends and family. Don’t allow yourself to feel completely alone during this difficult time. An outside perspective can help you to implement and hone better coping skills.
Setting Clear Limits
You should also be aware of how much, exactly, you can take. There may come a point at which you can no longer care for your narcissistic parent, either because they require too much medical assistance or because you can no longer handle their demoralizing behavior.
If it’s the latter, you may be inclined to set new boundaries and give them a second chance. Whatever the reason, clarify those boundaries from the outset so that everyone is aware of the expectations.
This may become especially important if you are dealing with a narcissistic parent who also shows signs of dementia. It may be difficult to tell the difference between typical narcissistic behavior and the onset of dementia. Both conditions are prone to delusional thinking or imaginary narratives, as well as angry outbursts and demanding, petulant behavior.
If you feel that your parent is exhibiting signs of dementia, then be sure to follow up with a healthcare professional. This condition worsens narcissism, and narcissism can feed dementia. This may indicate the point at which you must get additional help or pursue long-term care options.
It is never easy to take on the burden of caring for an incapacitated or aging parent. When that parent is also a narcissist, the weight of that burden is inevitably heavier. The situation may dredge up unpleasant memories and old wounds, so you must be careful to protect yourself from their narcissistic tendencies, as well as to engage in regular self-care.
Remember that there are numerous avenues for support available, from counseling to support groups or home care assistants to housekeepers. Setting limits and expectations can also help you to be prepared for how to care for your narcissistic parent. Caring for them shouldn’t require you to lose yourself.
This blog post can give you some insight into how to handle a narcissistic mother if you are unable to go no contact.
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