It’s Not a Burden It’s an Interview: A New Documentary On Caring for Elderly Parents

Michelle Boyaner and Barbara Green have been in love and working together for decades. I’ve always really admired their intense and deep connection. They seem to really get each other the way couples do when they’ve only been dating for two months. They work together so well. Their last documentary, HBO‘s PACKED IN A TRUNK: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson, was unbelievably moving, heartbreaking, and beautiful. Michelle and Barbara have already started work on their next project, IT‘S NOT A BURDEN: The Humor and Heartache of Raising Elderly Parents.

Here is the mini interview I did with Michelle!

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Was the inspiration just from living your life or was there something more?

We were hanging out one night with friends and instead of showing each other pictures of our pets on Instagram, we found ourselves talking about adult diapers and dementia medications. Since we were all in the midst of caring (in one way or another) for our beloved and aging parents, THIS was what was weighing heavy on our minds. Our parents loved us and took care of us when we were at our most vulnerable, and now we were doing the same for them.

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Give me tiny bios on the parents you care for! Who are we about to watch?

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My wife Barbara and I are caring for both my parents: my dad, 78, retired aerospace engineer. Divorced. Seven children, 12 grandchildren. Pet lover and accidental hoarder AND my mom, 78, divorced. Seven children, 12 grandchildren, brilliant narcissist and recent recipient of a dementia diagnosis, living in a “Board & Care” home.

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Tell me about “the humor and the heartache.

This has all the makings of either a very good comedy or a tragic drama. We’re choosing to go with as much humor as we can — we’ve decided to laugh so we don’t cry.  We’re also following our dear friend’s mom who is 95 and a larger-than-life performer still going strong and ready to put on a show whenever there’s an audience. We plan to profile a few other families to broaden our spectrum and give a wider view of what it looks like to care for aging parents across the US.  We’re making this documentary to tell people, “if you’re going through this, you’re not alone.” But also we’re asking: If anyone knows why they put those cut-in-half tennis balls on the feet of the walkers that older people use, PLEASE let us know.

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Do you love working with your wife because she is the best… oorrrrr?

I love working with Barbara Green because we are like a classic TV Detective Team where one is like, “let’s just go inside the building and find them” and the other is like “No! Let’s stay here until backup arrives.” She’s fearless and brilliant and the most talented human lady person I’ve ever known.


Donate to the Kickstarter here.

Dannielle holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Performance, and spent three years in Chicago studying improv and sketch comedy (that’s where the funny comes from). During that time she was also teaching drama to kids ages 8 – 18. Dannielle is the creator of Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, was the runner-up to be the first ever MTVTJ (twitter jockey), ran social media for Virgin Mobile on the Lady Gaga Monster Ball Tour, and starred as Justin Bieber in Not Another Celebrity Movie. She believes herself to be a “stellar problem solver,” has the ability to see both sides of the situation #libra, and gets her dance moves from her dad.

Dannielle has written 12 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. Hey there! I work in one of those extended care facilities and please know taking care of your family members is a privilege as they become parts of our lives.

    The tennis balls are so the walkers glide on smooth surface and do not snag on carpets :) Good luck on your journey

  2. I also work in senior living – I can’t agree with Arica enough. It’s an absolute joy and I wouldn’t want to work in another field. I dont get as much resident interaction as I’d like, but I love knowing I support those who support our residents.

    And Arica is also spot on with the tennis ball explanation:)

  3. I work with seniors also. A lot of our patients have either new onset Dementia or have long standing psychiatric diagnoses. It’s both very rewarding and challenging. There are good and bad days, let’s leave it at that.

    It’s also very heartbreaking to see their kids who will tell you ‘my parent worked all her/his life and this isn’t them’ It can get very sad sometimes.

    RE: TENNIS BALLS it’s so the walkers don’t scrape all over the floor which can sound very very very annoying and can also destroy the walker or floor itself. reference: it has happened to me multiple times.

  4. I’m a divorced Mom of three and 2 years ago we moved into my parents home to help take care of them. My Mom(82) has Alzheimers and my Dad (81) had just been diagnosed with stage 4 colon/lung cancer. It’s a blessing/ a curse/ a heartache/ a headache/ entertaining/ and deeply sad all at the same time. It’s exhausting both mentally and physically yet rewarding too. My kids and I have gone for the humor aspect of as much as possible. I could right a book with all the funny things my mom says and does. On days that are the hardest I have to remind myself that this won’t last forever and to appreciate the time we have left together. I was adopted so I feel deeply that I should be here at this stage. My kids and my girlfriend of 5 years are my life rings. It’s not easy… but it’s life.

  5. this is so important to talk about. I think we live in a society that is ashamed and embarrassed of aging. We also don’t talk about how hard it is to be someones caretaker and the stresses and isolation that can sometimes come with that. i’m glad that this covers the hard stuff but also brings to light the joy and fun.

  6. Watching my mother care for my grandfather has made me realize that I will likely be the sibling responsible for caring for my parents as they age because I cannot imagine my brother doing everything my mom is currently going through. It’s weird and difficult to think about, but I think it is really important. This is a kickstarter I will absolutely donate to.

  7. It’s been about 9 months since we put my maternal grandfather to rest Christmas Eve. Enough time to grow a new person, but you can’t replace a parent for all that they gave you. Be it trouble, heartbreak, tears, laughter or support.

  8. My partner and I looked after both of our mothers following our fathers deaths.
    My mum lived with us for 15 years while she gradually faded away due to Dementia. This was both the “worst of times and the best of times”.The ability to laugh was a life saver for all of us. I’ve never come out so often in my life, sometimes a dozen times a day.
    After my mum died, my partners mum came to live with us as her physical health deteriorated very quickly due to her Parkinson’s Disease. I ended up retiring a bit early to care for her full time needs. She lived for another 2 years and died in my arms.
    The experience was full on, loving, frustrating, funny, devastating at times but most of all a privilege. If you are in the position to do this, take it on, its definitely life at the sharp end.

  9. This is so crucial to discuss and weirdly what my wife and I were JUST talking about over dinner! We have to negotiate not being out to one set of parents as well as parental cultural/religious differences. We both want to be there when they need us but are faced with specific challenges pertinent to being a same sex couple. Anyone else relate? So I’m relieved there is a discussion and a film about all this!

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