Narcissist Father Making Mum's Life a Misery

Hi, I’m new to the forum. I’ve just joined because I’m so worried about my mum, who is a carer for my dad and I wondered if anyone else had been through anything similar or could offer advice, as the situation is getting so stressful and can’t go on.
My mum is in her 80s, my dad is in 90s. He has a few health issues but nothing too bad. He is mobile, can dress himself, go for walks, etc but he can’t read any more (vision in only one eye, due to macular degeneration) and he has poor hearing (and usually doesn’t wear his hearing aids), so relies on my mum to read out his post, etc and to dole out his medications.
The main issue is with his eating and appetite. Over the past few months, he’s lost a lot of weight and refuses to eat a lot of food, saying it will get stuck in his throat or will choke him (he’s had hospital tests, including a full MRI scan and they’ve found nothing wrong). He can eat 3 shredded wheat (!) in one go but refuses to eat a lot of soft food. My mum’s at her wits’ end trying to find him food that he will/can eat. It’s apparently her responsibility to provide him with the right food. He has also got into a habit of phoning the NHS Direct service, 111, often in the middle of the night, when he feels as though he can’t swallow, or has a dry mouth. (My mum tries to tell him not to, to have a drink, etc but he won’t take any notice). Sometimes they send an ambulance. Of course, there’s nothing really wrong with him. They’ve never taken him into hospital. He’s just been in a home for 2 weeks’ respite (which wasn’t really respite, as he was continually on the phone and insisted that she went in to see him every 2 or 3 days). He struggled to eat the food there, too, even though they put him on a soft food diet.
He had an appointment with the memory nurse a few weeks ago at the GP surgery but the results are not yet through. I am ‘hoping’ that the results will show that he has early signs of dementia. He definitely has an eating disorder, of some kind (to my mind - but then, I’m not a doctor). There seems to be no support or relief for my mum. I’ve urged her to go to the doctor’s and explain the stress she’s under (she basically does nothing apart from try to appease him and can sometimes have to take him to 5 appointments a week - doctor’s, opticians, hospital) but she won’t go as she says it won’t make any difference and they won’t do anything. Anyone else been through anything similar? (sorry it’s such a long ramble!). I do go over about once a week, by the way and take homemade soup, etc and sit in with him while my mum goes out but he is so miserable (all he does is moan about his ailments - he can talk about nothing else), that I often leave feeling quite depressed and so sorry for my mum, who could be having a nice old age.

This is really just to say hello and welcome as it’s often quiet here at this time of day.
Unfortunately I don’t personally have a lot of experience of caring for the very elderly. You can send a letter to your Mum’s GP (even if they won’t tell you anything) in case they are not aware of how stressed she is - if it is the same GP as your Father they might put two and two together and know already?
Others here will have more experience and ideas on how to make changes. However, leaving aside how your Father might respond, would your Mum herself accept more help if it was available? I am sadly aware of the impact conditioning and duty often have. Trying to prepare her for that, especially if your Father shows signs of dementia, will be important. Good luck!

Hi Worried DD and welcome
I have a 96 year old Mum in a residential care home where plenty of good nutritious food is available but over the past few months she has started saying nothing tastes of anything and eating very little. However we aren’t concerned as we realise that appetite changes and fades. We couldn’t give 2 hoots if she has vitamins, protein and calcium for example, her body is not going to grow or strengthen any more. Whats the point in vitamjns building good bones when she can no longer walk any way?
Like a lot of the residents she prefers softer sweeter things such as yoghurt, ice cream, custard, soup. We prefer her to be contented rather than force her into eating something she doesn’t want or need. As the very elderly get older their needs and likes do change. No one in her Home eats the portions someone young and active would, but most of them tuck in to a good pudding
In my personal opinion I think a decreasing appetite is part of the process towards end of life, and its natural. It’s only modern society that is so hung up on nutrition and forgets the normal circle of life.
Imho, if Mum ensures Dad is offered food but he then refuses it that is ok. No one can blame her or make her responsible for his choices.
Oh, you might want to get his teeth checked, just in case there’s something sore, and to reassure yourselves


just and idea. for various reasons my daughter gets a very very dry mouth. her gp prescribes a spray to spray around her mouth to make it more comfortable.
I wondered if this would help your dad. she does not live with me so I cannot give you the name right now, but will do tomorrow. or you could ask your surgery about it.

I agree with Mrs A - don’t worry so much. Why is it your mother’s responsibility to see that your father eats (more than he wants to)? It is very common for throat and swallowing problems and lack of appetite to develop in the very old. I don’t want to alarm you, as every case is different, but my brother was only 82 when he died, but only a few days before that we went to hospital for a throat test and a discussion of what he could easily swallow. He did have few teeth, admittedly. But I wonder if the inability to swallow easily was one of the signs he was nearing the end of his life - I don’t mean your father is about to die, but I don’t think you should expect massive improvement in his eating. It would be good if your mother worried less, but that’s easier said than done.

Agree with Mrs A - why is it your mothers responsibility to make your father eat if he has Mental Capacity, and it sounds as if he does!

I would suggest making his GP aware of the situation if they are not already. One suggestion is to ask for a perscription of Fortisips if he would have those as they do have all the nutrients and are easy to swallow. Could he get a referral to a Dietician?

I have been in a similar situation to your mother. My husband is nearly 80 and for the last few years has not eaten properly. I tried very hard to work with the Dietician and her suggestions and she was excellent but in the end, we both decided that if all he would have was the Fortisips and chocolate then we would leave him to it! I do try to keep fruit in and crispbread and cheese as he will occasionally ask for them. His weight went down to under 8st from over 11st but is back up to 9st.

Yes I do wonder if your father (and my husband!) have dementia so it is worth progressing if your father will co-operate.

I do feel for you and for your mother but the simple fact is we cannot MAKE a person eat.All we can do is rule out any medical problems, and for me, getting my husband to the dentist to make sure no tooth decay.

Hi WorriedDD,
I to agree with the advice that your Mum isn’t responsible for how much your Dad eats. Small portions of food should be offered, if he doesn’t eat that’s fine. Fortisips or similiar available as an alternative would be a good compromise and puddings such as those described by Mrs A. S had the mouth spray mentioned for awhile, so that’s worth following up, his was prescribed by the dentist. Also worth asking for a speech therapist to do a dysphagia assessment, they are qualified to look at eating and drinking difficulties and may have some useful suggestions.


Thank you very much for all your kind comments. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear in my first posting - sorry - but it’s not a case of my mum worrying about him not eating (although she does) - more that he actually wants to eat (or claims he does) but everything she cooks or offers him is rejected. Tomato soup given yesterday was ‘too salty’ and got thrown away. A creme caramel, fresh from the fridge, which he always used to eat, was rejected as ‘not fresh - when did you buy this?’ He is blaming her for his inability to eat anything. He sees it as her responsibility to provide him with food that he can eat (even though I’ve argued with him and suggested that he should SAY what he can/will eat - but it falls on deaf ears - quite literally). He is being totally unreasonable, which is why I think he has dementia. She is stressed, all day every day.
I have contacted a private dietician (as we can’t wait any longer for the appointment with the NHS one - it could take weeks or months to come through) and I’ll see if she’s able to help.

Thank you Dusty. I did wonder about trying to contact my mum’s GP. I didn’t realise I could write a letter. Perhaps I will do that. It all seems a little underhand but if she won’t go to the doctor’s, I’m not sure what else I can do!

He has Fortisips. The doctor has prescribed them and he has one occasionally. He has an appointment due with a speech therapist but we don’t know how long it’s going to take to come through. It could be weeks. But thank you for your advice.

He doesn’t just ‘refuse’ the food (and she is not ‘forcing’ him to eat it) - he rants and raves because he can’t eat it and demands she supplies him with something that he can eat. That’s not quite the same thing. I would not be worried at all if he just sat there, compliantly and said he didn’t want to eat it. Fine. The problem is his temper and his constant demands, which are wearing us all down. Thank you for your comment.

If he can’t come up with a list of what he could/would like to eat, then maybe, they should eat in separate rooms. You Mum could serve up and leave him his meal with a fortisip and whatever he last did like e.g. shepherds pie and veg with a fortisip and a fromage frais as the alternative. Or, give him ready meals - then when he turns his nose up, its less personal, as she hasn’t just slaved trying to make something he will like only to have him turn his nose up at it.


Is the temper and moods something new, or was he always like this?

Here’s a link to eating problems for those with dementia. I know he may or may not be in this category, but swallowing problems are common symptoms

“Rants and Raves…” That’s very different. Can you film him doing this? It might be the best way of getting the GP to take things more seriously. It’s worked well for others here.

Hi WorriedDD,
Your thread has reminded me of something in my own medical history. Many years ago, I was given some medication which played havoc with my ability to eat. Everything tasted and smelt horrible. I couldn’t face even the mildest and non aromatic food even though I was hungry. Changed the medication and all went back to normal.
I just wondered whether any of your Dad’s medication could possibly be having such a ‘side effect’ on him. Is it worth checking out? Have you mentioned this problem to his GP? There may be a reason why he is having difficulty other than bad moods or MH. It’s possible. Google ‘Medication affecting taste’.