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Senior Living: Prepare for medical emergencies ahead of time

Q. What kind of information should I carry with me in case of emergency?

You are very wise to think of this in advance of an emergency.

If you have a cell phone, you should program the acronym “ICE” into it. This stands for “In Case of Emergency” and paramedics and other first responders are trained to look for it. You would program in the numbers of the people you would want contacted, in the order you would want them contacted.

In my case, they would not be the numbers of my most frequent calls. The first person I would want contacted would be my husband and I rarely call him from my cell phone because we live together and talk when we are together at home. If you don’t have a cell phone, print this information out of your computer or write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet. Some wallets even come with a card you fill out with this information.


Carry your health insurance card or a copy of it with you at all times.

Also have a list of your medications and doses along with any allergies and medical conditions. You should also include the names of your primary care physician, any specialists you see and your preferred hospital. This does not necessarily mean you will be taken to that hospital because it is dependent on how busy their emergency room is at the time.

If you are a caregiver for someone else, this should be noted as well as information related to their condition so that someone is able to step in, in your place. You should have a plan in advance, both short term and long term for this situation. Perhaps a neighbor or friend can step in immediately, but then a caregiver may have to be hired. You should have your spouse’s daily routine written down, as well as their medication schedule so that whoever steps in can keep their routine as normal as possible.

Years ago this was brought home to me very personally with me and my mother. My dad had died years before and she was a very capable widow. She had always been very independent and had worked outside the home at a time when few women did. One day she became ill and I took her to the hospital emergency room. The nurse asked her if she knew what medications she was on and she indignantly said something like, “Of course I do, there’s a little round pink one, and a blue oval one and a …” You get the idea. I just sat there totally stunned. That’s when I realized that my caregiver role had begun.


NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor’s degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.