Preparing for a Medical Event

April 28, 2018

Photo by Martha Dominguez on Unsplash


It may not be something people like to discuss or ponder, but it’s essential to consider as you grow older, whether or not you lead a life on your own. Living alone makes this issue ever more poignant, but it’s important to make a decision on it in any case. It’s estimated that approximately 25% of US seniors live alone. This number today is higher than ever due to the growing number of childless marriages and high divorce rates.

Dealing with the possibility of a major medical event is a troubling thought, but it’s far better to be prepared than not. When there is no one who can help you cope with a medical emergency, there should be a clear algorithm for you to follow. It’s a serious concern, and it should be addressed, so let’s see what the simple steps are for a person in need of medical attention in the off hours.

  • You are probably already well-acquainted with your primary care physician, but make sure that your relationship is strong.
  • Find out whether there is a 24-hour number you can call to reach a physician on call.
  • Learn whether the hospital near you has a 24/7 help line and keep the number at hand.
  • Find out whether there are 24/7 Urgent Care Centers in your community.

The 24/7 primary physician help lines usually instruct a patient to call 911 if they have fallen, and are unable to get up, hit their head or are bleeding, or are experiencing chest pain. These cases require mandatory emergency attention, otherwise a doctor on the help line may be able to direct you towards a proper path of action. In any case, a medical professional cannot prescribe medicine or treatments, or give specific advice. In any situation that makes you feel like it deserves a visit to the emergency room or a 911 call, it’s best to act on your feelings – it may save your life.

Another important thing to keep in mind, especially if the senior in question lives alone, is an emergency kit. Its contents can vary widely, and it can prove very useful in case of emergency.

Here is an approximate list of the information to be included in the file, which should be easily accessible:

  • Contact names and numbers (next of kin, friends, primary care physician)
  • Medication tracker (crucial to keep track of medication intake to prevent overdoses and harmful drug interactions)
  • Snapshot of life and medical history (especially when the person in question has memory issues)
  • List of allergies and conditions
  • Insurance policies
  • Medicare/Medicaid info
  • Will
  • Testament
  • Advance Directives (durable PoA, living will, which elucidates the person’s )
  • Organ donation card, if relevant
  • Health care proxy (enables a relative or friend to make health care decisions when a patient no longer can make the corresponding decisions themselves)
  • Do Not Resuscitate order, if applicable

Preparing the essential information, as well as making and recording decisions concerning health is an extremely sensitive matter, is best done in advance, before an emergency occurs. Leaving these decisions to the last moment, when time is scarce and emotions are running high, means more stress for the patient and the family, and, potentially, sub-optimal decisions.

A crucial component to consider when constructing an at-home security system for seniors are medical alerts. A 911 call may not be an option, e.g., if the person has fallen at a distance from the phone, wearing a bracelet or another device that monitors their health condition and allows to contact the doctor or a relative in case of an emergency, it significantly increases their chances of a positive outcome. We strongly suggest a medical alert system to be put in place for any senior.

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