How to Deal with a Narcissistic Parent’s Chronic Illness

Marlena Bontas
3 min readSep 6, 2022

Feelings of guilt are going to wash over you when a narcissistic parent gets sick

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

Narcissists have an incessant need for control, attention and admiration. The need for attention will be however ten times higher during a chronic illness.

If your narcissistic parent has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you might wonder what can you do to help. Or perhaps if you should help at all. Maybe you’re thinking you need to be ‘there’ for the parent in their time of need.

But hold on a minute. You are not dealing with a normal person here. Remember that a narcissist does not care about themselves. They will use any opportunity to get narcissistic supply (attention, validation, etc) and their illness might be the right opportunity to do so.

My narcissistic father was diagnosed with a scary illness. At first, I was numb, I didn’t know what to think and feel. Later on, guilt feelings started to rear their ugly head. Maybe I should be there for him, help him and provide emotional comfort, I was thinking.

However, after talking to my various support groups, I realised the following things that made me decide to not offer emotional support to my father during his illness:

  • it is difficult, if not impossible to offer emotional support to an abusive person. The parent won’t want this support because they lack empathy. When someone lacks empathy for other people they also lack empathy for themselves. It’s pretty easy to understand, no? So why would I help them if they just don’t want to be helped?
  • if you were diagnosed with this illness, would your narcissistic parent be there for you and give you all you need to heal and recover? Do you think they’ll drop everything and run errands for you, buy pills for you and take you to doctor’s appointments? If the answer is no then why not treat them the way they’d treat you?
  • if you play the narcissist’s game and provide comfort to them during their illness, run errands for them, and make sure they’re comfortable and have everything they need, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. You’ll be burying yourself deeper into the trauma bond. Being trauma-bonded with a narcissist means loving and caring for people who are hurting you.

Instead of spending so much time and energy on caring for an abuser, you can spend time learning new ways to be in a relationship.

What does it mean to be in a healthy and safe relationship? What are the limiting beliefs or negative programming that stop you from accepting love and kindness into your life? You can work with a therapist to undo this negative mindset and build healthier beliefs that will attract quality people into your life.

But if you want to do something for your sick parent and you know that providing any kind of help will make you feel better, hire someone to care for them. There are plenty of care companies that offer live-in care services to elderly people who are sick or incapacitated at home.

Doing this will help relieve the stress of not doing anything for your parent during such a tough time in their life but will also protect you from abuse and mistreatment. As I said before, a narcissistic parent has no empathy for themselves. If you try to offer care or support, they may lash out, and become verbally or emotionally aggressive.

Hiring a day nurse or carer means you won’t need to be there for them and expose yourself to all that abuse.

All in all, if you’re finding yourself in the situation of having a narcissistic parent who is old, sick and in need of care, you need to decide what it’s the best course of action. And when taking this decision, make sure you put your needs first. Remember that you deserve to live an abuse-free life, to have boundaries with people who don’t care if they’re hurting you.

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Marlena Bontas

Content writer, tea drinker, English-Romanian girl living abroad. Writes about NPD, relationships, health, finances and business.