Narcissism Gets Worse With Dementia & Alzheimer’s

As many of you know, my father received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in late July.  (Thank you to everyone who has offered their prayers & support- I appreciate that more than I can say!)  Also, my husband’s father was diagnosed with dementia last year.

My husband & I are both afraid of what the future holds, since these diagnoses are very painful for the victim as well as his family even under the best of circumstances.  Since both of us have very dysfunctional, narcissistic parents, it probably will be even worse than the average case.

Recently, I read that if a person has Narcissistic Personality Disorder prior to the diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it will get worse as the disease progresses.  My heart sank as I read it, but it did make sense to me.

Alzheimer’s comes on very slowly, & can develop for even years prior to receiving a diagnosis.  The last few years, my father has changed- he is no longer a covert narcissist, but quite overt.

My husband’s father?  He was always the overt narcissist.  Then suddenly he changed- for a while, he softened up a great deal.  My husband even enjoyed spending time with him for the first time.  Around the time of his dementia diagnosis though, he defaulted back to his old ways.

From what I’ve read, the best way to deal with this frustrating & painful situation is to treat them as if you’re dealing with a spoiled child.  Normal boundary setting won’t work anymore, because they won’t remember what you said as their memories fade or know how to react.  However, if you can show them that their actions aren’t getting the desired result, you have a better chance of dealing with them.

Chances are, you are going to need someone to help in your narcissistic parent’s care.  It may be too difficult on you emotionally & physically to be a full time caregiver.  Start looking into options early in the diagnosis, before things get bad.  Your local Department of Aging is a wealth of resources as is the Veteran’s Administration if one or both parents were in the military.  If possible, find out where your parents keep their financial records, bank statements & the like in case they are needed.

One very nice lady at my local Department of Aging gave me very wise advice- always make it about them.  Remind them that something benefits them, & if it also benefits me, leave that part out of the conversation.  Keep all focus on them & you have a much better chance of success with your conversation.

There are also ways to deal with someone with such a disease, whether they are narcissistic or not, that you should know as well.  I admit I don’t know a lot, but these seem like common sense to me.  I used to take my mother’s mother to visit her husband in the nursing home.  His brain was damaged after a stroke, & he became much like someone with Alzheimer’s.  The nursing home kept him in the Alzheimer’s wing because of this, even though he didn’t have the disease.  I don’t think he remembered me at all, so I often stayed in the background while he & my grandmother visited.  I observed the other patients & how they responded to the ways they were treated.  This is some of what I learned.

Be patient.  This person is frustrated too that their mind isn’t working like it once did.  Don’t rush him or her- wait patiently for their answer instead.  If you need to remind them of something, do so gently.

Have a schedule, but be flexible.  For example, if you usually go to the grocery store on Tuesday, but the patient doesn’t feel like it, skip going.  Postpone the trip until the following day.  Or, find someone to sit with him or her while you go alone.

Be respectful.  If someone says they forgot something that you told them, don’t get frustrated & say something like “I told you this six times already!”  Just gently remind him or her again without saying “I already told you…”  Instead, say it like it’s the first time you’re mentioning it when possible.

Respond rather than react.  By this I mean that if the person says something deliberately hurtful to you, stop for a second, take a deep breath to calm down a bit, then respond.  Reacting with anger only upsets you both, & if the person is narcissistic, this can really start problems for you.  I had to do this recently with my father.  He asked how my in-laws are doing.  Mind you, he knows I haven’t spoken to them since 2002 because of how they treated me.  I took a deep breath & told him I don’t know or care- if he cares so much, talk to them about it & leave me out of this.  I said so calmly but firmly (then vented to my poor husband after I hung up the phone..).  So far, no more comments, but if there are, I will say the exact same thing again & again.  He doesn’t get upset, & I don’t end up feeling guilty because I yelled at my father.

Remember, many people with Alzheimer’s or dementia forget someone they knew has passed on or mistake you for someone else.  Just go along with it- what could it hurt if they think you are their mother, for example?   One day while visiting my step grandfather in the nursing home, a man who obviously had advanced Alzheimer’s thought I was his daughter.  I let him.   It seemed to give him joy for a few minutes, he obviously loved his daughter a great deal, then suddenly he was done & walked away.  No harm was done, & he was happy for a brief time.

Sometimes silence is a good thing.  Sometimes just sitting quietly with the person is comforting.  Or kind gestures, such as offering a manicure or combing their hair.

14 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism

14 responses to “Narcissism Gets Worse With Dementia & Alzheimer’s

  1. Tara Lila Rose

    Thank you for writing this! I had no idea that my narc mother had dementia until I moved to Florida, from New Mexico about 18 months after my father died from a horrible cancer. I knew it immediately upon my arrival and the crushing reality hit hard as I was in recovery from chemical poisoning and had developed numerous autoimmune illnesses. My dog also became very ill. Thank God I was able to heal her and myself but it has been a long hard road with little support. It’s hard enough starting a new life in a new town but when you have these added challenges it feels like a hurculean impossible feat. I always knew my mother had a severe personality disorder and that my Dad was more covert narc and an enabler becuz he always took her side and never protected me or my brothers against her attacks. Not to mentuon he traveled for work and didn’t see a lot of it too. I have reached out to other family members for support and no one is coming forward. Since I was made to be the scapegoat they’re all taking it a step further and basically trying to make me into a type of linchpin for an entire family’s intergenerational psychopathology which I have always been cognizant of. I thought I was healed and had forgiven all of this as I have worked long and hard on it since age 12 when I took myself to a therapist by a bus with my babysitting money after a failed attempt to run away. I can’t believe I’m still dealing with these people but I actually care about them course I care about myself but I feel I don’t want to totally abandon my mom now she does have long-term health care but she really depends on me emotionally especially and she becomes frantic if I don’t call her back immediately and tells me that she’s going to call the police. I feel very overwhelmed and devastated by the situation. You are lucky to have a husband that you can glean support from. My friends are loving and supportive but there’s only so much they can take they can’t really do anything to make it better and knowing that it’s only going to get worse is absolutely heartbreaking for me and it’s making me hard for me to move on with my life I feel like I don’t even have a life. I went to a concert last night it was the first time I had any real fun in almost four years!! And I’m a life of the party type of person who has fun all the time or at least used to. I thank God for the internet every single day and basically feel like I’ve had more support from strangers which makes me sound histrionic like Blanche in Streetcar Named Desire but I’m really not anything like her please God help me thank God I have a relationship with God but still there are many days I feel like joke and I feel like I’ve been abandoned and then I get angry at God but I ain’t no saint that’s for sure I’m not know Mother Teresa. I’ve read many books by Peter Levine Gabor mate a Bessel Van Der kolk all kinds of books on narcissistic borderline mothers and it’s helping me somewhat understand things better I guess I’m just processing a lot of grief and feeling all the loss and hurt and disappointment and Trauma that I’ve had to suffer because of this situation which I did not ask for I don’t care what anyone says I did not ask to be born into this screwed-up family situation who would? Only a masochist! I keep reaching out but I keep coming up short and dumb no one really wants anything to do with it that I feel like they like I’m being treated like I’m a disease like a leper that no one wants to get near. And I fantasize about getting in my car and driving the hell out of here and going back out west everyday.

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    • Wow… you sure have a lot to deal with! You are one strong lady! God bless you! I’m so sorry this is all happening to you & your mother. It sounds like you’re handling it as well as can be in this situation though.

      If you’re interested, I have a group on facebook. The members are extremely kind & supportive. The group is called “Fans Of Cynthia Bailey-Rug” if you’d like to look it up.

      Don’t forget to take care of yourself too! If there is any way you can do more things like that concert or going to lunch or something, please do it! Self care is so important!

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      • Tara Lila Rose

        Thanx Cynthia. Problem is further complicated because of my financial situation and frustration with wanting to launch my own online biz and not having the resources to do what I want on so many levels. Then the entire culture we live in has become so narcissistic in general that the behavior has become more the norm than the exception and that too further contributes to the situation. I’m just muddling thru doing my best which of course dealibg with this type of personality disorder is never enough and never will be. God give me the strength to get thru this or take me far away so I can get a life that I so dearly deserve and desire!! Thanx again for all you do to help build awareness and support others. I love you.

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  2. My covert narcissist husband has gotten worse with his manipulation tactics even though he is in late stages of vascular dementia. He is under hospice care in a nursing home facility due to Diabetic Ketoacidosis and his dementia working against each other. I do care about him and his care, and physical needs, but the abuse goes on,…every visit, without pause. I can’t subject myself to it anymore. I’m 69 years old, an Adult Survivor of Child Abuse and marital abuse. I am a born again believer. I am prayerfully considering going ‘no contact’. My children have gone ‘no contact’, maybe it’s time for me. But, yes, his narcissism is much worse,..and has taken a different turn,…anger,…more overt. It is all very sad.

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  4. Judy Leggett

    I have had a brainbleeed that left me unable tp care for my husband who jas been diagnosed with dementia. I need to know what to do for help. Thanks, Judy

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    • I’m sorry but I really have no expertise in that area. My suggestions would be contacting your local Dept. of Aging & maybe even churches. Churches often offer support or at least leads to support for the community. Your local library may even be able to help. They really do have information on anything you can think of.

      I truly wish you the best. ❤

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  5. annealcroft

    Cynthia, this article is so helpful. Wish I’d discovered it long ago.

    It makes me realize how easy it has been to react to the narcissistic abuse of my father by not just confronting him with all the truths that have been important for him to confront and for me to confront him with, but I am also realizing that in doing so there is a certain part of me that wants to repay him for the incredible hurt he has caused me, eye for eye. Nothing offends God more than this kind of malice, even if it is true.

    A friend who had a similar experience with her father recently said there will always be such a huge void in her life never having the father she needed, and how that has effected her entire life and her relationships. Though she has a wonderful family and a really dear husband, she says there is always something missing from her life because of her father’s inability to have a relationship with his own daughter.

    So there is some part of us that refuses to give up trying to make the proverbial silk purse from the sow’s ear. It’s exhausting and heartbreaking, especially when we realize there isn’t much time left, or else reality is, it’s too late.

    Being in touch with elder care, social agencies, doctors, and other agencies like Alzheimer’s Association truly is helpful. What is most difficult is when other family members turn a blind eye though they are aware there is a problem. So many of us find ourselves the lone wolf in such situations.

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    • I’m glad it helped you!

      I understand how you feel! I felt the same with my late mother in-law, wanting to repay her for all the problems she caused in my marriage. But yanno something? As long as we don’t act on it & work towards forgiveness, I really believe God understands how we can feel that way. He knows we’re human & fallible.

      Your friend is right… there is always that hole where our parent should’ve been, being kind & loving. I really believe certain relationships can’t be replaced no matter what. Like, my best friend.. if anything happened to her, I’d be devastated & I don’t think any other friend, no matter how good, could fill that hole. With parents, it’s even more profound.

      Absolutely we find ourselves as the lone wolf. UGH!! It’s not an easy place to be at all!

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      • annealcroft

        Cynthia, just combining comments here after having just watched your recording “How Feeling Your Feelings Help Your Mental Health.”

        Though I have a hearing impairment so it was difficult for me to hear everything you say in your recording, such as who said “feel your feelings” I caught 98% of it all and found what you say to be very empowering.

        It is so true that our narcissistic parents damage if not rob our little souls as children, paralyzing our ability to function normally in the world we live in and even, if not especially, damaging our relationship to God.

        While it is important to remind ourselves that our parents, too, were damaged as children, our task is to become aware of when we are inflicting cruelty and abuse upon others, especially our own children.

        There is no greater punishment than when God stops stirring the conscience. The narcissist refuses, as you have said many times, to admit, acknowledge, or apologize for, their sins, iniquities, abuses, crimes, and evil. No other gods but they, themselves.

        Not long ago after a spat with my malignant narcissistic father, I learned that he literally believes the First Commandment means no other Gods before HIM!!!!!!

        To cope with all of this, after yet over the past few days another “episode” not just with him, but with my covert/overt narcissist train-wreck PhD older sister (the loss of whom I grieve deeply as well as grieving my father) I have learned to see my father not as a father figure, but as my baby brother. My sister is but a shadow. There is a very good chance I may never see her again. If my father dies tomorrow, I guess only the local police might notify me, but otherwise I am certain there are no family members who would notify me and that is most likely how he wants it. His adulterous girlfriend who destroyed his marriage, his family life, his reputation, his honor, his integrity, and ultimately —— his salvation, takes center stage. My entire family has literally gone to the devil.

        So to harness our emotions, and not allow them to harness us, is so important because, as you say in your video, this empowers our self-esteem.

        The victims of narcissistic abuse are gaslighted into believing they are phonies for having emotions when they are betrayed, abused, victimized, cheated, ridiculed, and most of all, when we have the audacity to allow the Light of Christ, absolute Love, shine through our hearts —- that Love that so offends them that they will do anything they possibly can to try to kill it.

        That is where we are all at right now.

        Thank you, Cynthia, for your wonderful contribution to the healing of mankind. Your work is an absolute blessing.

        With great love and admiration,
        AA

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        • I’m glad you found my video empowering. I do apologize for the sound quality. I don’t know what that is about. When I make videos & edit them, the sound is fine. Upload to YouTube & it gets weird. Go figure!

          The person who told me “feel your feels” is my best friend. 🙂

          That is so very true about narcissistic parents! They absolutely damage us & leave us unable to function normally. It seems so unfair that they don’t have to fix the damage they’ve done, we do.

          Sadly I think your father is in the majority of narcissists, believing “no other gods before ME!” I can’t fathom considering myself equal with God, but they sure seem to have no problem with that.

          I’m sorry.. I hope things don’t come to that when your father passes on. Having a total stranger tell you that your parent has passed is awful. The police told me about my mother & the one officer clearly was judging me for not being in my mother’s life.

          That is so very true, victims are gaslit into believing such things when we’re abused & betrayed. We’re supposed to take it all with a smile. Yea, right! Not gonna happen!

          Thank you so very much for your kind words Anne. ❤ ❤

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