Who will sit by my hospital bed?

After a busy day of playing music for a funeral—lovingly arranged by the deceased’s grown children and grandchildren, having lunch with a friend in her 30s who has no interest in marriage or children—“I honestly don’t like kids”—and playing the piano for a Saturday evening Mass at which my three singers were all older women whose lives are completely wrapped around their offspring, I received a text message that upended my life.

My father fell on March 25 and broke his leg. It was a bad break, above the knee on the same leg where he broke his hip three years ago. When I first got the text from my brother that Dad was in the ER getting x-rayed, I hoped it was for something minor like a broken finger. No such luck. It was a bad break, requiring surgery, and Dad is less than a month away from turning 95. We don’t know whether it will heal properly. He expects to return to living on his own in the house where we grew up, but that seems unlikely at the moment. Thank God he had his cell phone in his pocket, or he might still be lying on the kitchen floor.

I spent the last week in San Jose, California, mostly sitting by his hospital bed listening to him talk and interacting with doctors, nurses and aides. My brother was there for the first three days, but he had to go home and back to work. My schedule is a bit more flexible. I was the one helping Dad transition from the hospital to a care home where he will continue to recover and work with physical therapists to get moving again. Right now he’s pretty much confined to his bed. While I was there, I could fetch the phone, the urinal, his glasses. I could run out to get help when no one responded to his call button (all too often).

When not with Dad, I was at the house, cleaning years of gunk off every surface, collecting the mail, paying bills and answering phone calls, emails and texts. It’s a house full of memories. Many of my mother’s things are still there, although she has been gone almost 15 years. In the mornings, I sat in her chair by the front window and wrote. In the warm afternoons, I sat in the back yard in the patio that my father built, looking at the lawn he planted and the sidewalk he put in around 1950. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the house now, but I’m anxious to take care of it. Hard to do when I have my own house 700 miles away in Oregon.

I’m the daughter. It’s my job to drop everything to help my father when he falls. Walking up and down the halls of the care home, I see other daughters and sons doing the same thing. One can’t help but wonder who will do this for me. My brother, yes. If he’s alive and able. My friends? Maybe, but not to the extent that my brother and I have been doing. My niece and nephew? I don’t see them helping their grandfather; would they really help me?

I pray that I will never be in Dad’s situation. Nursing homes are not fun. Hospitals are not fun. If I do wind up in such a place, I hope I will have enough money to pay for extraordinary care. I may have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

It helps to have children, but as everyone says, even if you have kids, you can’t count on them to help. Even if they want to, they may live far away like my brother and I do. Today as I type this, Dad is at the mercy of the staff at the care home because we both had to go back to work. We just pray the professionals are kind and efficient and know what they’re doing.

Dad was doing the dishes when he fell, breaking his leg and hitting his head on the wall on the way down. Here in our community, a young woman named Tracy Mason was driving to work early one morning last month when a truck slammed head-on into her car. Almost every part of her is broken. She has lost part of her vision, is struggling to keep her left leg. One minute she was having an ordinary day; the next she was helpless in a hospital bed in Portland. Everything can change in an instant.

If you don’t have children, start cultivating relationships with friends and family members. Arrange the paperwork so they can help you if something happens. And make sure you have good insurance. Then enjoy today as it is, however it is. If you are able to walk, talk and take care of yourself, life is good.

Thank you for your patience with this slightly off-topic post. It has been a long week and a half. If you’re into praying, I’d welcome your prayers for my dad and for Tracy.

As always, I welcome your comments.



11 thoughts on “Who will sit by my hospital bed?

  1. I’m really sorry about your dad’s fall. It’s tough facing the reality of our aging parents. I hope his surgery goes well. Prayers to both your dad and Tracy. I’ve been asking myself the same questions you bring up. I’ve never been married and it doesn’t look like that’s in the future for me, so I’ve started reading a lot of books on retiring single and researching communities for retirement that are single friendly. I will need a community and I want to be there for others too. I’ve done my will, I have a dear friend who is a nurse also as my medical POA, and I’m putting every single penny I can into debt reduction, savings and retirement. I will need it! I hope I’m financially secure in my future. It worries me a lot. I have a brother, and he has kids. My nieces and nephews will be financially okay already. Our parents and my SIL’s parents will provide for them, so I’ve been researching what to do with any excess money that may remain. I’m going to see about setting up a college scholarship for single, childless older women. We all know that being single and childless does not always mean that there are extra resources for things. Prayers to you, your dad and Tracy. Thank you for your post and sorry for the long one here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your prayers and kind words. Bravo for the wise things you have been doing to secure your future. I’m thinking about moving to some kind of retirement community when I get older. Not there yet. 🙂 It’s hard being alone. Keep up the good work.


  2. Hi Sue, I submitted this comment earlier but WordPress didn’t act like it “took” so I’m re-submitting it. I’ve learned to copy/paste my comments in a text file and come back later anytime I have a comment here. Hi Sue, so very sorry to hear of your Dad’s latest fall. Such a painful season for everyone involved. I know in your heart you’d rather be with him, keeping an eye on things, but you have your own life, and by golly, you built it the way you like it. To turn 180 degrees and take care of your Dad full-time is not a viable option.
    I do think of this subject often, and have for over 10 years now. My steps can’t even take care of themselves; how can they take care of me and why would they take care of me? I have a nephew that I don’t get to see as often as I did in years past, so my relationship with him has really suffered over the years, although I’m excited for him to have a gorgeous, healthy, active family. I read an article awhile back that with 1 in 5 women (random statistic I pulled off a tweet last week) not having children in the U.S. (this trend has been steadily growing since the 80’s), there is a surge in adults with no adult kids to care for them. Many are buying long-term care insurance now to prepare for the day you describe. The article described that some are moving to active senior living communities in Panama which is far more “childless friendly” than the U.S.
    My plan until something happens to change it is to find a few friends with no adult kids/grandkids and live together, support and encourage one another, keep an eye out, help each other as needed and so on to the point that when/if the day arrives that I do need a nursing home/care facility it will be a short stay before I pass on. It sounds lovely and logical, and we all know that life is far from logical, even on a good day. No amount of planning can plan for every possible scenario. So I do the best I can, and because I have a strong faith, I trust God to take care of the rest. That is what faith is about right? At any rate, losing sleep over this situation so far into the future won’t help; in fact, it will hurt me. One day at a time.
    Again, I’m sorry to hear of your Dad’s fall. I hope when he is done with rehab, if they insist that he not move back home, that he doesn’t give you a hard time insisting to move back into his home against doctor’s orders. My Dad is fighting leaving his home even though my Mom really needs and wants to be in a community setting. I remember well my mother-in-law fighting all the ‘losing independence’ doctor’s orders till the day she died. So hard for everyone.


    • Thank you. It is hard. He is going to cling to the last shred of independence even though he has fallen several times and really needs some help. I can’t blame him. We need to strike a balance between planning for future problems and enjoying the life we’re living right now.


    • I’ve also thought about long-term-care insurance. I’ve been dragging my feet in actually buying it, but I do think it’s a good idea for those of us who are going to have to do this aging thing on our own. I have some vague plans. I’d like to retire in another country. I’m hoping that the fact that I didn’t have children to support and college to pay for will help me be able to retire early. I’m thinking of living in Thailand for a while, where my money will go far and there is pretty good inexpensive health care in the major cities. When I’m over 65 and Medicare kicks in, I’ll come back to the U.S. and look for a more practical living arrangement like the ones described in the article. I don’t know. I hope it works out somehow. I worry a lot about aging all alone, so I’m trying to prepare for it, not just in the decisions I make, but mentally as well.


  3. Hi Sue, I hope your dad is doing better.
    It would be good if he had someone else in the house, a roommate? Less worry for you too.


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