It is tempting to make excuses for the behavior of an aging mother or father who may be living on their own with failing health. But in dealing with the aging narcissist, this normal sense of human compassion will be used as a tool by the narcissist to exploit and manipulate their well-meaning adult child.
The aging narcissist has the same needs for respect and compassion as any elderly person. The problem is that the primary caregiver, often an adult child who has long suffered at the hands of this self-absorbed person, must cope with the increasing levels of narcissistic behaviors that accompany old age.
The adult child must create boundaries to protect themselves from the increasing onslaught of unrealistic demands from their frail narcissistic parent. They must especially protect themselves from the deadliest activity of all: hoping that with increasing age and frailty the lifelong self-absorbed parent will finally see their child for what they are: a real, separate person, who deserves all the love that they were denied for their entire lifetime. This destructive belief, that age and the prospect of death looming like a specter, will suddenly cause Mom or Dad to see reality and let go of all the love they have been withholding from their child is a hopeless one. Surely, everything will be all right now?
This is one of the most harmful, yet extremely common, daydreams of the child of the narcissist. It’s an understandable one: who wouldn’t want a loving parent who, at the end of their life, acknowledges their love and pride and gratefulness for their child. One of the most painful wounds that the child of a narcissist has to overcome is accepting the reality that this will never happen. It’s a very deep pain and a very real one. Coming to grips with it may take months or years; to be stable it must be a gradual process. Yet it is the key to escaping the trap of the narcissistic parent.
Contact Beth McHugh for further assistance regarding this issue.