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?