Friday, May 13, 2011

It’s All Over But the Bingo

Once again Smart Ass Cripple will offer up an embarrassing true account of one of his many follies so that you, dear reader, can learn a valuable life lesson.

You’re welcome.

Today’s lecture is on the importance of advance directives. What would you do if you were suddenly in a position where you were unable to make medical decisions for yourself? It’s vitally important that you think about this right away, while you still can. Write down specific instructions in an advance directive for your loved ones who will be your surrogate decision makers to follow. This will save everyone a lot of anguish.

Believe me, I know. I made a well-meaning but profoundly ill-advised medical decision on behalf of my aunt and now she must live with the consequences. Two years ago my aunt was hospitalized due to a sudden, unexplained but temporary wave of delirium. Within two months she was back home with her wits restored intact. But she remembered little of what went on those two months. As I pieced it all together for her- - the tests, the treatments, the surgery-- I mentioned that one day when she was in the nursing home for rehab, she played bingo. She looked at me with horror. “Bingo? ME?”

I’ll never forget her searing look of betrayal. I knew right then I’d made a terrible mistake. I pleaded my case. I explained to her that when they announced at the nursing home that it was bingo time, she was quite enthused to play. So I sat beside her as she played with competitive intensity.

But I should have known better than to go along with her. I should have remembered the couple times Rahnee and I pointed out the senior center near my aunt’s home and encouraged her to socialize there. My aunt adamantly scrunched up her nose. “No way!” I can see now that her strong reaction was probably because there’s a big BINGO sign in front of the senior center. To her, bingo is the national pastime of the end stage. They’re sweeping the floor around you and putting the chairs upside down on the tables. They’re turning off the lights. It’s all over but the bingo.

I should have insisted to all the medical staff working with my aunt that she be placed under a strict No Bingo Order. I should have demanded that NBO be written on the front of her chart in bold red. Then this terrible mistake would never have happened. If only she had spelled this all out in an advance directive.

My aunt still grapples with the magnitude of the sobering reality that she lost such control of her faculties that she actually played bingo. She prays it will never happen again.

My aunt forgives me for my poor judgment, but I still carry the guilt. When I decided to let her play bingo, I just wanted her to enjoy life however she could. But my agenda was selfish. I wasn’t considering her quality of life. How much can a person truly enjoy life when they’ve lost their dignity?


  1. I once won $500 playing bingo. To hell with dignity.

  2. It ain't bingo I'm worried about; it's someone looking at my warped body, my ventilator, and my power wheelchair, and deciding to turn out the lights.

    Too many times have I heard, "I'd rather be dead than be in one of them thangs."

    "Go ahead," I say. "Everything is copacetic here."

  3. When I was in a nursing home, c. 1978, money wasn't mention at Bingo. If money would have been the prize all us young smart ass cripples played! No money

  4. I was roped into playing Bingo a few months back by my brother (the volunteer fireman at the air puff machine calling the ball number when it presented itself). I remember the entire time the old War song "Slippin' Into Darkness" running like an old 8-track through my mind ... Scary ...

  5. Hey, I used to work Bingo when I was in High School. Had a great time -- all the free soda and snacks we wanted and my friends and I got to chase girls up and down dark hallways while the adult Bingo workers drank beer in the kitchen. Fond memories indeed!

  6. I'm okay with bingo, but the thought of joining in a round of Kum-ba-yah with a visiting church group is horrifying.

  7. Hooting with laughter here. To my chagrin, I learned that my late father had been playing bingo regularly at the retirement home. Then later on I found out he had just been there to hit on the women. Gee, I felt so much better.

  8. Good God man, you let her play bingo? How could you? Oh, I feel her pain and shame.

    Well, at least you know now, so it won't happen again one hopes.

  9. No dignity in bingo? The rehab place where my father stayed for a couple of weeks had visits from a praying dog as entertainment.

    Yes, a one-trick dog, trained to put its front paws together on a the patient's knees and lower its head onto the paws, while the trainer said a prayer. They took pictures, and the staff said "All the patients really love it".

    You couldn't make it up. (At least, I couldn't.)

  10. everyone has a boundary, in youre aunt's case bingo. In my dads case - my mother's stair lift. In my case spending the ENTIRE night asleep on the sofa.