There will come a time when your aging narcissistic parent will no longer be able to live on her own. This is a hazardous time for you. She may try to make you feel guilty for not moving her in with you. You have to be firm in setting your boundaries. No matter what, you can expect your parent to ply all her narcissistic devices to avoid placement. This will not be an easy time for you as she infects you with guilt for abandoning her.
But you can use this situation to your benefit if you examine your feelings and reactions to those feelings and trace them to their source. It is a time when you can work on some of your issues. You can work on seeing the narcissistic games.
This is an opportunity to work on your guilt. Your mother or father cannot care for themselves any more. You are ensuring they get the care they need. Why then should you feel any guilt?
Placing a parent in assisted living or skilled nursing care can be a long drawn out process. Mainly because of the games your parent will play. Here is my experience in placing my father in a nursing home. I will also describe how my narcissistic father “punished me” which led to my discovery that I am but a tool to him.
Dad’s Physical Decline
Besides being a narcissist, my father is an alcoholic, and a smoker, having smoked and drank for fifty years. At the age of 70 he looks closer to someone 90 years old. For the last couple of years, he has used a walker to get around. He also wears a brace to keep his knee from moving behind his leg.
He lived in a small, single bedroom, smoke filled apartment. His day consisted of reading the paper and watching television. His only socializing was to go to “the club” once or twice a week to gamble and have a few beers.
He began falling frequently. My siblings and I suggested he move to an independent living center. He proclaimed he’d “fight every one of us” rather than move. He knew a facility wouldn’t let him smoke and drink alcohol.
The falls became more recurrent. He started getting hurt. Then one day, naked, he fell and couldn’t get up. My brother found him lying on the floor, cold from his lack of clothes. This was a situation of unbearable humiliation to a narcissist.
He was admitted to the hospital. We were all prepared for his death. He was malnourished because he hadn’t been able to cook for himself. Several bones had small fractures. And there was internal bleeding. He had not informed us he couldn’t cook anymore or about the frequency of his falls.
His narcissism prevented him from asking for help. The false image he created of himself was someone who could live independently. His mask crumbled. Without it, he didn’t know how to present himself to the world. And he couldn’t even let his children see that the image he constructed of himself was false. He would have rather starved to death or broken his neck in a fall than for all of us to see that he wasn’t strong or self-sufficient.
Thus the narcissist drinks their own poison.
But the poison didn’t kill him. Death rejected my father, unwilling perhaps to have a narcissist as a companion on his journey back to the underworld. Dad lived, but the prognosis was he couldn’t go home. He needed 24 hour care in a skilled nursing facility. Dad’s resistance to the idea didn’t manifest yet. The falls were too recent in his memory. And he was enjoying the meals. At this point, he was too scared to go home.
A Realization About My Narcissistic Father
Dad was admitted to the nursing home. It was left to my siblings and me to clean out his apartment. I found it sad that at the end of someone’s life—even if that someone is my father—that all of their possessions would be taken by family members, given to charity, or thrown out. For the remainder of my father’s life, he would be allowed to possess only what could fit into two small dressers.
The only thing I took was a small end table that I had loved as a child. After I brought it home, my wife wiped it down knowing my OCD viewed the table as a threat.
Together we sat on the couch. I had been feeling sad since I left Dad’s empty apartment. My wife asked what’s wrong. I told her I was confused.
I felt guilty for not being part of Dad’s life. But he didn’t really want me to be a part of his life or he would have made an effort to call me. He never met any of my children. They held no interest for him.
I realized dad was at the end of his life. It was only a matter of time till Death grudgingly did his duty and bore my father’s soul to whatever hell awaits narcissists. A tear ran down my cheek. I realized that all the hope I held that he might transform into the dad that I wanted in my life was gone.
I cried over never having a father who cared about me as a person. I felt the sadness of never having a father that loved me unconditionally. I wept because the hope I lived with for nearly five decades that I could have a real dad died within me that afternoon.
The crying surprised me. I do not easily weep. Yet the act of crying was cathartic. I released some pent up emotion that I never realized existed within me. I did not know that I wished all my life for the kind of father that loved me and cared about what happened in my life. Nor did I know I wished for a father who would offer guidance and advise me as I stumbled along life’s path.
These urges lurked in my unconscious. They were too painful for me to think about consciously. Why these urges chose to make themselves known when they did is a mystery. But I needed them to emerge to advance my healing from having a narcissistic father all my life.
I felt cleaner after the realization and the tears. Like some toxin was flushed from my system.
You probably have a similar urge within you regarding your narcissistic parent. You may not want to admit that you dream of your parent becoming the mom or dad you always wanted. I didn’t want to admit it. However, it’s important for your healing that you do see this.
Until you do, you will continually battle with yourself as to whether to accommodate your parent’s wishes or not. You will scramble when they want something, because subconsciously you believe that if you please them this time, they will be the parent you want.
Please believe this. There is no way you can ever satisfy your parent. They will only want more from you. Doing what they want feeds their narcissistic supply. The thirst for narcissistic supply is endless. It feeds the false image they present to the world and to you, their child.
For them to be the parent you want, they would have abandon their false image. They would need to stop parasitically sucking narcissistic supply from you and start giving. Being the parent you want means that they would need to empathize with you. Narcissists are incapable of empathizing.
As much as I hate to say this, give up the dream. Cry. Your parent will never parent you like you wish to be parented. They don’t have the capability. Realizing this is heartbreaking yet healing. I wish healing for you.
The first couple of times I visited Dad in the nursing home he acted friendly. He told me that he didn’t know how long he could handle living there. The staff told me he talked about going home.
He remained his old self. One day he told me he awoke at three AM. “I wanted two things,” he said. “A cigarette and to get laid.” I informed him he wouldn’t get either there.
During my next visit, he barely talked to me. Instead he watched TV. He usually introduces me to people. “This is my first and worst son,” he tells them. But he didn’t introduce me to the staff that zipped in and out of the room.
I didn’t realize how insulting it was to be called his “first and worst son” until my wife pointed it out. I was so used to the statement that I couldn’t see what it implied. Do you see how we normalize the demeaning ways our narcissistic parents treat us? Another example of why they will never be the parents we are wishing for.
The next time I came, he just watched TV. Then he laid down on the bed and went to sleep. I shrugged, said a silent “Fuck you too” in my head, and left.
Then I talked to one of my brothers. He told me that our other brother took Dad out to his club and bought him a pack of cigarettes. Dad tried to light a cigarette in his room a couple days later. His roommate is on oxygen.
“I take him to the club every now and then,” said my brother. “But I don’t buy him cigarettes.”
I nodded and got in my car. I was pissed. Two years ago, my brothers and I made a vow that we wouldn’t buy Dad beer or cigarettes. Yet he always had both. Now I know why.
Even with him in a nursing home, his body ravaged by 50 years of alcohol, my brothers were taking Dad to his club where he could drink. This was the reason Dad was “punishing” me by not talking to me when I visited. I didn’t provide access to alcohol and tobacco.
Sitting in the nursing home, knowing I won’t take him to his club, and there being nothing else I can provide him, my father has no use for me. Yet I fed him his narcissistic supply by asking him questions and trying to get him to engage in a conversation with me.
I can see that there is no love for me—and it hurts. I’m but a tool to him. A tool he no longer needs. So he tosses me aside like a broken chisel.
And I can look back and see that I was a tool all my life. As a child I was a clown and a cute kid to show off his virility. When his second wife left him, I was a place to stay. I tolerated him showing up at 10:00 PM, drunk, looking to use the couch bed. And later I was a drinking buddy until I gave up alcohol. Then I told him I wasn’t going to watch him drink his life away and we went our separate ways for 13 years.
He’s as good as dead to me now. I don’t visit and I feel no guilt. He has my phone number and could call if he cared. But he doesn’t.
It hurts. But as children of narcissists we are used to the pain. It has been inside us since before we can remember. And the ache of never having the mom or dad we wanted will probably always haunt us. Only by accepting that they’ll never be a true mom or dad is the pain dulled.
As much as it hurts to hear, realize that you are but a tool to your narcissistic parent. You’re a tool for getting what they want whether it be narcissistic supply, a place to stay when in town, or to show you off and take credit for your accomplishments.
You need to realize this so you can make a choice. The choice is to be their tool or to separate yourself, erect boundaries, and say no. I know how hard it is to say no, so I do not criticize you if you choose to continue to play your role in the family. There’s no shame in that. I played my role with my dad for years and could not stop. And I’m struggling with not playing that role with my Mom who is also a narcissist. It’s a painful ordeal.
If you choose separation you must learn to say no and be firm. You must erect strict boundaries around you and your family and not allow these boundaries to be violated—no exceptions.
This is not an easy row to hoe, but it is not impossible. You can do it. You are strong enough. I have faith in you.
Just remember that there’s nothing wrong with you, no matter how your parent views you. Your narcissistic parent is incapable of empathy, unconditional love, and having a true parental relationship with you. You are not broken; they are the damaged ones. You are lovable and deserve to be loved by someone who loves you unconditionally.
May you have the love you deserve. Forever.