HELP EMERGENCY TEAMS HELP YOU
Thoughts to help you or your loved one get help fast
HELPING THOSE WHO MIGHT HELP YOU
When Alzheimer’s sufferers are found wandering or when victims of an accident or illness are unable to speak, police and emergency services workers often waste valuable time trying to find out who they are, whom to notify and critical information about their health.
To the rescue, three programs that can help rescuers help you:
ICE. If you’re in an accident, these three little letters—an acronym for “in case of emergency”—can turn your cell phone into a lifeline that can help you get the medical care you need quickly. ER doctors and paramedics often turn to victims’ mobile phones for clues to their identity and for next-of-kin contacts able to offer critical medical information. You can make their job easier—and make sure your loved ones are notified promptly—by listing the names of emergency contacts in your cell’s electronic phone book and flagging them with “ICE.”
It’s simple to do: When entering the telephone numbers, punch in "ICE" before the names—for instance, "ICE1—John” and “ICE2—Mom.” Ideally, emergency contacts should know your medical history, particularly doctor’s names and any allergies to medication.
No cell phone? Keep emergency contact information in your wallet and the glove compartment of your car.
FILE OF LIFE: Every second counts in a crisis, and being able to quickly learn about a patient’s medical problems can help emergency responders administer prompt and proper treatment. But all too often people home alone manage to call for help but are unconscious or incoherent by the time paramedics arrives. A File of Life, which contains critical health information and contacts, enables them to obtain a quick medical history when you or a family member is unable verbally to offer one. Decals on the front door alert emergency personnel to look on the refrigerator for the magnetic red plastic case containing the file.
“The more emergency responders know, the faster someone can get potentially life-saving treatment,” says Randy Campbell, executive director of Gates Volunteer Ambulance Service in Rochester, New York. “The File of Life can help paramedics determine initial treatment, such as immediately testing blood sugar if a patient is diabetic or using special gloves or equipment if someone is allergic to Latex.”
Call your local Chamber of Commerce or Office of Aging to see if there is a File of Life or similar program in your area. If so, the sponsoring File of Life organization will send you wallet and refrigerator-door versions of the medical form as well as exterior-door decals. If not, make up your own mini-medical form and carry it in your wallet or tape it to your refrigerator. Include your (or the patient’s) name, date of birth, emergency contact, primary doctor’s name and number, blood type, medical conditions, medications and dosages, drug allergies, recent surgeries and any other special circumstances that medics should know.
SAFE RETURN. For a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer’s, few things are as worrisome as the one in their care’s tendency to wander off and get lost, since the disease often robs them of their ability to recognize familiar places or ask for help. As many as 60 percent of people with dementia will wander, often repeatedly, and if those who get lost are not found within 24 hours, up to half will suffer serious injury or even death, says Kathleen O'Brien, senior vice president of programs and community services for the Alzheimer's Association. Fortunately, the organization’s Safe Return program can help reunite those lost with their family members.
How it works: After a chance encounter with an Alzheimer’s sufferer who seems lost and confused, a rescuer calls the 800 number listed on the wanderer’s identification bracelet, necklace or wallet card and a Safe Return staffer alerts the family member or caregiver listed in their database.
If an enrollee gets lost locally or far from home, one call to Safe Return’s 24/7 helpline activates a search. “We immediately notify local law enforcement and emergency responders, and aid them in their rescue mission by, for instance, faxing a photograph and identifying information about the missing person,” says O’Brien.
Consider the one-time $40 enrollment fee an insurance policy for your loved one. “Safe Return has a 98 percent success rate in returning wanderers,” O’Brien states.
To find out more about Safe Return and other resources available through the Alzheimer’s Association, call (800) 272-3900. Master’s level clinicians are available around the clock to help you deal with all sorts of everyday emergencies, from calming an agitated Alzheimer’s patient threatening to leave home at 3 a.m. to finding a caregiver on short notice.