What Matters to Me is What Matters to Everyone, Right?
For most people, #SeniorNarcissism is a normal occurrence that we see when our loved ones age. As people age, their brains can’t focus on as many things and survival is all they can manage, thus aging adults focus on what they need to get by. Caregivers get familiar with the “Take me to the doctor”, “Pick up eggs for me”, “Fix my phone – it’s not doing what I want/need” demands and so on. Sometimes with a polite “please” included but in my experience, more often delivered as a directive. Along with an expectation that I will drop everything I am doing to handle what is needed. And, once the issue/problem is solved… occasionally we receive a “thank you” but often, at least in my case, it’s just moving on to the next thing that requires my/our attention and assistance; the former favor or task forgotten because it’s been resolved.
“You’re father isn’t eating; we need different food.”
“Your father’s weekend aide got another job, I need a new aide to cover her hours.”
“What is my gmail password?”
“I can’t load these pictures onto Facebook? You should put them there.”
“How do I get my voicemail from my phone? I think it’s broken.”
Caregiving for a clinical lifelong narcissist comes with its own set of unique challenges. I was raised in a home where only my mother’s interests were at the top of the agenda. Anything that mattered to her, of course it must be what mattered to the rest of us. If what was important to us wasn’t going to be helpful to her, then our needs were ignored or delayed.
And now I am going through this again. This morning my mother was upset because she called a doctor’s office two hours before our assigned meeting time to ask questions and the doctor abruptly cut her off and told her she’d speak to her at our assigned time. When we did talk at the assigned time, the woman was lovely.
My mother complains to me that she doesn’t like one of our aides because she is not a perky, chatty woman. I know that mom needs someone to dump all her stress onto and the aide politely says she needs to concentrate on my dad’s care – which is what we hired her to do. But mom wants to chat and wants a friend. So this aide isn’t “good”. Mom tells me this when the aide is within hearing distance. “Oops”, mom giggles to me, when she realizes the aide overheard mom’s complaints.
Mom grills the hospice case worker to know why all the aides and helpers that are there each day to wash my dad’s body and remove his diaper and clean him up aren’t more friendly and chatty? Why can’t they hire people who are in a better mood? You know…mom wasn’t exactly in a great mood when she had to do that job and now she has help (for which she should be immeasurably grateful) but she’s looking to have her own needs met.
It is hurtful when mom’s asked me to help with something and I do it but I do not receive recognition that a problem was solved until I follow up. And even then, there’s no thank you because I’ve just done what was expected and needed. I am no longer relevant because mom has what she needs. Until the next time.
I don’t know of any way to solve this problem other than to define my own boundaries. I cannot control my mother. You probably can’t control your loved one either. But I can manage my own expectations and I can say “no”. It’s not easy. It’s not comfortable really because I’ve been on-duty and of-service for so long it’s second nature to jump and react. I have to get better at determining what things I am willing to do and when; stop dropping everything to provide what is needed by others. What about me? Are I not entitled to my own time and space?
The DND (Do Not Disturb) function on my phone has been a blessing. My mother knows that if it’s a life or death emergency, she just has to call me twice and I’ve made it so her call will come through even with DND activated. But if it’s not critical, she can leave a message or a text and I’ll get back to her when I’m able. And just taking back that control over when, if and how I respond puts my mental state of mind in a better place. Mom doesn’t like it but she seems to be adapting.
When mom wants a ride somewhere, I suggest calling the senior ride program run by our county. It’s $3.50 a ride, I got her registered, and they take her anywhere within the county by appointment. That’s been a lifesaver. She lives 30 minutes from me so I can meet her at her appointment and drive her home. Otherwise, I drive 30 minutes to pick her up, take her to where she wants to go which is often near me, sit through the appointment, then drive her back and then drive 30 minutes home again. All this while I am trying to run a business. If she can just get there on her own, I can take her home and it’s much less hassle. She’s gotten okay with that and I’ve even gotten her using Uber.
Mom’s requests for shopping items are now under control because Covid has put all sorts of delivery services at our beck and call from every big box store, market, restaurant and even fast food joints. I don’t need to run out to pick up what she lacks, I can order things at midnight and they show up the next day or two at mom’s apartment without me leaving my home. NICE!
Taking it Personally
When I tell mom how I feel that she is taking advantage of me and that her expectations make me feel like a servant-on-call she says I’m just taking it all too personally. Really? When someone abuses you, it is personal! And she isn’t apologizing for what she did to make me feel the way I do, she just says she’s “sorry that I feel that way.”
So now it’s up to me to say no. I’ve chosen to be a caregiver and volunteered to be #PrimaryCaregiver representing the family but I don’t need to let that choice destroy my self worth or run me ragged. That’s a choice too. I choose me. And that’s not being selfish. Maybe becoming more narcissistic myself, when it comes to my caregiving roles, is actually healthy?
Are you caring for narcissists in your family? A #NarcissisticLovedOne? What have you found helpful?