Guest Posts Revisited – Jane Hanser – The Burden Interview: Of Mothers, Caregivers, Sons and Daughters

Jane Hanser contributed her post in 2014  about an issue that resonates with most of us who have been carers for an elderly relative and those who understand that this is a distinct possibility in the future. The post is as relevant if not more today as governments debate how much of your life’s savings they will deduct to provide you with long term care.

What is interesting is that if you are a full time carer in the UK, you will be lucky to receive £50 per week and that is taxable if you have other income. Considering that care homes charge several hundred pounds plus… per week to offer less that one to one care and not always to the standard that you would prefer…it would seem that the government should think about recompensing family members significantly more. If they wish to deduct that salary from your inheritance I have no problem with that since it is the here and now that elderly family members need loving and caring attention.

The aim is always to ensure that those we love enjoy the last few years of their life in a pain free, enjoying their usual activities, being nourished and surrounded by love.  That is the ideal but unfortunately most of us have to juggle our own lives and families to accomplish this and whilst it should be a team effort with other family members and with support services it is not always the case.

I was lucky many others are not.  I will now hand over to Jane to continue……

The Burden Interview: Of Mothers, Caregivers, Sons and Daughters

“You’re better at it,” wrote my brother in an email after I complained that he wasn’t doing anything for our elderly mom while I was doing everything.

His words still sting like a bumble bee.

Was that really supposed to appease me, or my primary care physician who was becoming extremely concerned as my blood pressure was rising higher and higher and higher and I was becoming pre-diabetic from lack of physical exercise? Or was it supposed to provoke?

Add to that the layer that he, my brother, lived only 20 minutes away from our mother, while I lived 300 miles away.

A Boston-based 2012 study indicated that daughters, twice as often as sons, become the elderly mother’s caretakers. But still, sons comprise up to 30% of those care giving for elderly parents. In Canada up to 30% of those caring for elderly parents are sons, shows a Canadian study. The “elderly parents” are usually mothers, since women generally outlive men.

While the men in the Canadian study indicated positives as well as negatives in caretaking, they still assumed that responsibility. Married men generally had the support of their wives, with whom they discussed decisions they were making.

So how does it get to be the daughter living six hours away becomes the primary caretaker when the son, living 20-25 minutes away, does virtually nothing? And what repercussions does this have on my, the caretaker by default, health, finances, social life and emotional well-being?

After another email months later to my brother in which I outlined everything I’d been doing vis a vis my mom and the toll it was taking on me, his response was “Thanks.”

Mine back was was “I don’t want your thanks. I want your help.”

While I could never anticipate my mother’s declining cognitive, and physical, condition, I also could never anticipate that I would get absolutely no help or support from my “bro” or support from my sister-in-law, receiving instead just the meek justification for why it was that he was totally defaulting on the small things, including asking for information about her current health, and the very large and major things and decisions.

The word “burden” is used repeatedly in all studies about adult children as caretakers of elderly and frail parents. And it completely amazed me that there is something actually called “The Burden Interview,” which I discovered on an online search.

This discovery was a true relief, and I gladly read the questions and circled my answer, recognizing so many aspects of what the questions addressed. Twenty of the 22 questions on the Zarit Burden Interview begin “Do you feel…..” or “Do you feel that…” One question begins “Are you afraid about…” and the last and 22nd question begins, “Overall, how burdened to you feel…” Answers ranged from Never (score of zero) to Nearly Always (score 5). I wish that the question “Do you feel that your health has suffered because of your involvement with your relative?” should score a 5 and that my doctor’s feelings about this should add in a bonus 5 points. Feelings are big in this test.

Test takers have 30 minutes for this test. Mine took much less, let’s not say how much less. Then I added up my score. Yup! “Moderate to Severe Burden.”

The one question that I’d like to see the questionnaire ask is: “Do you feel angry at other family members who are doing less than you are?” or “Do you feel that other family members should be doing a better job at caring for your relative?”

I do, and I do. I wish the Burden Interview asked these questions because the complete lack of participation in my mother’s caregiving by the person geographically closest to her adds a lot of stress too.

When one family member is clearly dis-involved, and wants to be dis-involved, there is no communication that is going to get you the understanding, and the help, that you want. There is no way to go but to accept that and let go. To do otherwise would be to increase ones emotional stress, and therefore burden and the consequences of that.

“Anger deprives the sage of his wisdom, a prophet of his vision,” says the Talmud. More conversations, more attempts to get somebody to see your distress or point of view would end in just more frustration, and disappointment, and a self-destructive cycle of anger.

CARETAKERS of ELDERLY PARENTS: How many others like me are there out there? I would guess I’m not the only one.

It’s often repeated how commonly families break up over money, especially after the death of a parent and the distribution of the estate.

Or, in this case, they functionally and emotionally break up long before. And when that’s the case, don’t hang on and let it raise your BURDEN SCORE even more!!

About the author


Jane Hanser’s poetry and essays have been published in numerous print and online journals such as Poetica Magazine, The Persimmon Tree, Every Writer’s Resource, and others. She has developed software to teach writing, self-published a grammar book and taught English as a Second Language at several campuses of the City University of New York. She has an M.Ed. in English Education and ESL from the Graduate School of Temple University. In her other life, Jane is dedicated to many and varied community activities, in particular feeding the hungry, literacy, and bicycle and pedestrian safety. She spends way too much time on the computer and would like to rejuvenate her painting watercolors. She is married and lives, works and plays in Newton, MA. Joey’s descriptions of her in Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways are, except for a few insignificant details of time and place, true and accurate.


  • A 2015 B.R.A.G. MEDALLION HONOREE for Literary Fiction.
  • 2015 IPNE FINALIST  (Independent Publishers of New England) for Young Adults.
  • 2015 IPNE FINALIST for Literary Fiction.

About the book

Set in the neighborhood of the Boston Marathon, an irrepressibly energetic, curious and gregarious chocolate Labrador Retriever named Joey loves to run and run. He also has an insatiable sense of discovery. But will it lead him to gratification – or to danger? Preparing his shenanigans well in advance, Joey discretely makes his move early one morning, a move that forever changes his life and the lives of his mom and dad, his running partner,and leaves them to pick up the pieces. This heartwarming book, now a 2015 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree for Literary Fiction, narrates a true story with a unique voice.

Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways is a true story about freedom, rules and boundaries, communication, and,of course, our dependence on the kindness of others.

Appropriate for all adults and for children 5th grade and up.

One of the 76 reviews for the book

Joey is a loveable dog who cannot stay out of trouble. He loves to run with his dad, and gets bored when he is home by himself or with his mom. His morning run just isn’t enough exercise for a Labrador retriever. He is always using his senses to find ways out of the backyard fence to explore the world beyond. This always gets him in trouble with his “mom” who usually gets a call from a friend or neighbor who saw him out wandering. One day after Joey “escaped” from his backyard; a car accident nearly kills him. The road back to healing and health is a long and arduous climb for both Joey and his family.

Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways is a well written, character driven story with numerous escapades by Joey. Writing from Joey’s point of view must have been a difficult task for the author. Though it can be an enjoyable read for an adult, I believe it would be better suited to a child who is old enough to read chapter books.

Buy the book

Authors Page on Amazon
Follow Jane on Goodreads

Links to connect to Jane Hanser

Thank you for dropping by today and I look forward to your views on the subject. My thanks to Jane for her honest and thought provoking post that applies to so many families these days. Sally


16 thoughts on “Guest Posts Revisited – Jane Hanser – The Burden Interview: Of Mothers, Caregivers, Sons and Daughters

  1. Pingback: Guest Posts Revisited – Jane Hanser – The Burden Interview: Of Mothers, Caregivers, Sons and Daughters | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Nothing has changed – or, at least, nothing has improved. I remember checking about the money for a carer and it was £50 but because I’m self-emplyed I’d have to fill in forms every week detailing all other sources of income and if was above a certain level, that £50 would be reduced. As a freelance my income goes up and down so it would have involved huge amounts of time – not to mention the stress – to do the paperwork. I didn’t bother. I was lucky I was in such a position. I naively thought I could carry on writing while caring for dad – hah! After he died, I had to start all over again as a freelance and as for creative work, I’m still only starting out again almost three years since he died.
    I’ve heard of many cases like Jane’s where the daughter is expected to do the caring simply because ‘that’s the way it is’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had the same issue with the money Jane and I didn’t claim because I was getting some income from my therapy practice but even when I gave that up when I could not keep appointments they wanted to know how much David was earning as he came to live with my mother and I to help out. The system is not geared to self-help. To be honest I would bring in grants to enable families to extend their homes if possible so that more parents live with their children and give them tax credits. The system needs a new overhaul but it will be on the back burner while all the current shenanigans is going on. I have a number of ideas for the NHS on this issue and others plus on education and the prison system. Perhaps we should form the Bloggers Party.. and set out our manifesto… time for a change and I really don’t think we could do any worse…hugs xx

      Liked by 2 people

    • Mary, thanks for your response. Caring for an ill or elderly parent does totally take over, and if it doesn’t take over, it does a good imitation! Some families – siblings – deal with these questions ahead of time and come up with a plan in which each person will do, or does, what he’s best at and they all work together in that way. I think those families are in the minority.

      Good luck with starting over!!! Wishing you strength and health!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a very though provoking post Jane. I am going to say something now to make me really unpopular. As a bloke I blame the mothers. Sons are generally the apple of the mother’s eye (Freud would say he is the substitute husband- but then he said a lot of things- some of which even make sense)- If the son deigns to show for her birthday or Christmas it is like a visit from the Pope! Whereas on the whole mothers think little of daughters. (Now I know I’m generalising here, but just go with the flow)- Their expectations of the daughter is much higher and the daughter gets shown little gratitude for all she does. It pains we to say so but I suspect that the enemy of women is other women, and it passes down through the generations. As I said this is just a few observations I’ve made and is fraught with generalisation and contradiction. But I think until mothers instill sons and daughters with an equal sense of responsibility from a young age (like equally doing the dishes or housework) I fear little will change.
    And now that’s me off everyone’s Christmas card list!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with you Paul 100% but I think too that when you are talking about adults that there should be some empathy between brothers and sisters and concern for their welfare if not for their parent. I know only too well the drop in for 20 minutes every fortnight syndrome… and it has long lasting affects on relationships long after the parent has gone. And don’t worry you are still on the Christmas Card list. hugs xxx

      Liked by 2 people

      • You are absolutely right Sally- but speaking as a bloke many of os never really start to grow up until absolutely forced to.

        Liked by 2 people

      • You’re both raising really good points and getting into the meat of this situation. There are definitely moms who are so happy, so grateful, to have that drop-in-every-fortnight that they don’t complain because doing so would risk the son coming even less often! Which still supports your point, Paul. We are dealing with social expectations, with mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and even daughters-in-law, and sons-in-law. How complex can we get!!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Barbra Streisand, The Gospel Truth and Summer Schedule | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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