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4 Ways to Deal with a Narcissistic Parent

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Picking the overly-prideful out of a crowd

Their penchant for and ability to manipulate those around them can make a narcissist difficult to spot.

Thomas suggests avoiding viewing the issue as simply black and white—either a person is, or is not narcissistic. Caregivers should shift their focus to how pervasive of a senior’s sense of self-importance is. “We all have a degree of narcissism in us,” she says, explaining that the classic signs of the disorder “exist on a continuum.”

The other trick is to examine a senior’s personality over the course of their entire lives. If they have been noticeably ostentatious, manipulative, attention-seeking, and self-focused for years, chances are that they have always been (and will likely always be) a narcissist.

A senior who suddenly develops some narcissistic tendencies following a major life event, such as, the loss of a spouse, or the onset of a major health issue, may be suffering from a different mental ailment, like depression, according to Thomas.

Born, bred, or both?

For a caregiver, it can sometimes feel as though one is constantly surrounded by an army of self-important people who demand our time and attention, but refuse to reciprocate.

Where do they all come from?

Though their behavior patterns often extend far into their past, narcissists don’t emerge, fully-formed, from the womb.

Thomas notes that pinning down specific causes of narcissism is tricky. She says that self-centered people are generally a product of the confluence of two greatly influential forces: biology, and environment.

It makes sense. People are genetically programmed to be concerned for their individual health and wellbeing, even when it is sometimes comes at the expense of others. If you combine those biological promptings with certain environmental factors, such as neglect, abuse, and over-parenting, it’s not difficult to see how a narcissist could be developed.

“I Secretly Wish My Elderly Mother Would Die”
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How to Deal With An Elder Who Complains Too Much

A Caregiver’s Guide to Caring for a Narcissist originally appeared on AgingCare.com.

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48 comments

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8:35PM PDT on Apr 10, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

8:54AM PDT on May 7, 2012

I will be moving to take care of my mother very soon; I am not looking forward to it, but I am sure she isn't either...

10:35PM PDT on May 5, 2012

It is a lifelong issue, they do not change - though some may mellow. Their family members become damaged and continually question whether or not they did enough for the narcissistic parent, because she was never happy. This was my boyfriend's experience with his mother. She was a narcissist right up to the day she died, one month ago. The only consolation was her final comment to him - "I really did love you" - which meant the world to him.

4:51PM PDT on May 4, 2012

My heart goes to anyone who has to take care of a narcissist. It is draining physically, mentally and emotionally. Sadly, there are families who have to deal and live through a tough situation- taking care of a demanding narcissist.

7:05PM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

My mother is a narcissist and thinks she's still 21.

Whenever she starts trying to push my buttons, I dismiss her attempts and make refferences to her lack of youth. Reminding her of her adult daughter's age usually quiets her down. ;)

Thanks for the article!

5:32AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

12:58AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

I made the mistake of loving a narcissist My children love their mother but do not like her. It is sad but I do not see that there is any way that it will change. She came from an alcoholic abusive family and I always felt sorry for her.

After drinking started our marriage went into decline and we split.

The real trap with a narcissist is that they project the type of personality that attracts what they want. The sad thing is that they cannot keep it up and it eventually comes out in many times violent as well as verbally abusive.

My kids learned how to handle her and although love her are always frightened that she will turn on them at any time.

Just a quick note to Mary D. You are a lucky person never to have been at the mercy of a narcissist. I guess in the great scheme of things it you had to chose between an alcoholic abusive partner or a knife welding psychopath the alcoholic would be better. but still it does not rate a LOLOLOL.

5:18PM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

This sounds like an incredibly difficult challenge and good advice for those dealing with it.

I do think it is best to view narcissism as a spectrum. Most people consider their needs and wants to be more important than other people's. Most people consider themselves to be better than average and their friends and family to be better than most people. But most people do think that other people's wants and desires matter, and they do not think they are the best person in the world. It is natural when something bad happens to you, even though you know some percentage of people will have it happen to them, to think, "Why me?" Very few people will think, "Why not me?" After all, if some percentage of people have to deal with this problem, why shouldn't I be one of them? But a little bit of viewing yourself as special is okay, and it even helps your relationships to care more about the people close to you than you do about people in general. It's just hard to deal with those whose focus is so narrow that they have no compassion and consideration left over for most others.

1:43PM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

glad my parents are awesome

11:01AM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

great article, thanks for sharing! :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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