A man passes out in the street. A woman is in an accident. A senior suffers a heart attack. A chronically ill grandmother gets disoriented and lost. Emergency help is called. These people are hospitalized. The doctors need to know whom to contact and what medications they are to receive. They need to know what illnesses they suffer from and any allergies they have before they can be treated properly. Who will talk for them, if they cannot speak for themselves?
Carrying a medication list with you at all times is vital for the chronically ill, the elderly and anyone who is taking medication or has information that needs to be shared if they are unable to speak for themselves. Medic Alert bracelets and necklaces alert physicians to allergies and other medical problems and should be worn by anyone with a serious problem. But, what if you don’t have a serious problem? What if you are just hard of hearing and are on just a few medications? Who will speak for you, and is it important?
David’s story: David was 92. He was sound in mind and body and could live by himself with minor cleaning support. His biggest problem was being hard of hearing and needing hearing aids. He also was taking a few medications since his heart attack over 20 years ago. David had moved to a warmer climate when he was 60. His daughter lived a short plane ride away. It was David’s custom to go for a short walk every morning to buy the newspaper and then go home and read it over his morning coffee.
David rarely put in his hearing aids until after his morning paper walk. However, one morning David passed out on his way to the newsstand. An ambulance was called and he was taken to the nearest hospital. David can still remember the horror of what happened next. He remembers people looking at him at the hospital but not being able to hear what they were saying. He remembers not being able to tell them he couldn’t hear them.
He was disoriented, frightened and confused. The next thing David remembers was waking up in the psychiatric ward of the hospital. People around him were yelling and behaving strangely. He was heavily sedated.
David’s daughter called her father every day at the same time. It was their routine. When Shelly got no answer at the usual time and for hours later, she knew something was wrong. She immediately flew to her father’s house and finding it empty, started calling hospitals and checking police records. She located her father, brought him his hearing aids and started to try and fix the mistakes that had been made. But, as they both found, it was not easy to get him out of the ward into which he had been mistakenly placed.
First, David had to prove his competence. At 92, David thought the doctors were crazy when they started to question him. What do you do with a chair? Where does a shoe go? David was getting more and more agitated and frustrated until he finally told them that, if they didn’t get him out of there, he would put the shoe on his foot, then sit on the chair and give the doctor a swift kick at the first opportunity.
With that, the doctor’s saw he was indeed competent. Meanwhile David had gone through a harrowing experience and not only missed taking his medication for two days but received other medication that could have caused problems for him, because no one knew what he needed.
Everyone, young and old, chronically ill or with a minor problem, should carry a medical list with them at all times. It is what will speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself. It should list the medications you are on, the dosages and how often you take them. It should list your allergies and any aids needed to function normally such as hearing aids, glasses, canes and even a wheelchair.
It should list any conditions you have, a list of your doctors and whom to contact in case of an emergency. The list should be with you whenever you leave the house – perhaps in a clearly marked envelope in your wallet, pocket or purse. A second list should be clearly labeled and be put in a prominent place in your home if you live alone, or easily accessible for someone who lives with you. It should contain all the information you need to tell a doctor in an emergency. It will assist in any treatment you need, and could even save your life.
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