1 Timothy 5:3-8 “3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NIV)
Elderly narcissistic parents are often even more entitled than their younger counterparts. For their children, this can be an incredibly painful position to be in.
Many adult children of narcissistic parents feel they have no other option than to be their parents’ caregiver, even at the cost of their health & their own family. After all, we can’t forget Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (NIV). Then there is 1 Timothy 5:8 which says, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (KJV) Doesn’t this all mean you have to be hands on with your elderly parents, no matter what? NO!!
I do NOT believe that God wishes His children to take care of their narcissistic parents no matter the personal cost. That doesn’t sound like the God I know!
First, to honor your parent simply means to give them the respect they deserve as the people who created you. You acknowledge them as your parents. You speak to them civilly, not rudely or disrespectfully. Honoring them does NOT mean tolerating their abuse. It also doesn’t mean that you neglect your family to take care of your parents. If you opt to take care of your parents in a hands-on way, you can honor them by helping them as much as you feel able without wearing yourself out or neglecting your family.
Also, remember 1 Timothy 5:8 says that you must provide for them. You can provide for your parents in various ways, not necessarily being “hands on”. Arranging for help to come to your parents’ home is a great way to help them & provide for them. Researching local resources for whatever help they need is providing for them. Paying for things your parents need yet can’t afford but you can is providing for them.
As your parents become elderly & need more assistance than they once did, you need to prepare ahead of time as much as you can. Even if your parents are still relatively young, start to look towards the future now. You never know what can happen. Things can change in an instant, so you need to be prepared.
Start praying & asking God for wisdom & insight on what boundaries you will need to set when the time comes as well as strength to enforce those boundaries.
Read up on the topic to see what others do with their elderly narcissistic parents, & honestly ask yourself what you can & can’t do. There are plenty of informative caregiver websites out there.
Most libraries are a wealth of information. The library near me has a ton of pamphlets & booklets near the entrance on various services in the area, including information from the local Department of Aging. I found a booklet there for seniors’ resources. It includes information on cleaning services, in home health care, assisted living facilities, contact information from the Department of Aging, & much more. Your library may have a similar booklet- it’s worth checking into.
If you’re going to be involved in caring for your narcissistic parents, it’s best to learn as much as you can about what’s happening with their health. Narcissists love to exaggerate their illnesses, & you need to be aware of what the truth is & what they are making up. Read up about their conditions online or talk to their doctors without them around.
If something needs to be done to help you to help them, stress how this will help them. Leave out how it will benefit you entirely, & make it sound like it will help them only. In my own caregiving experiences, I’ve noticed that saying that something will help me falls on deaf ears. Saying that same thing will benefit the narcissistic parent however, gets the narcissist’s attention.
In fact, don’t discuss anything about you as much as possible. If an elderly narcissist knows you’re not feeling well or are tired, they will push you to do more & more as they can get away with it. Wearing you down gives them some sick pleasure.
When you set boundaries, do so as cheerfully as possible & with no explanations. As always, any information these people get can be turned into ammunition they will use to hurt you with.
It is possible to keep your sanity in tact while caring for a narcissist. Keep in mind everything you know about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, set & enforce boundaries, don’t neglect yourself or your own family for your parents & most of all, keep God first in your life. Depend on Him completely to help you do such things & show you what to do, when to do it & how to do it.
If you opt to keep your distance, then try not to feel guilty. If you know in your heart that you can’t be a more hands-on caregiver, there is no shame in that. God only asks people to do their best, nothing more. Sadly, some people are so incredibly toxic, there is just no way to interact with them on a daily basis. It happens, unfortunately. If your parent is that way, you have done nothing to feel guilty about by protecting yourself.